Kip Rides a Roller Coaster, A Mixed Bag for Phoenix Double Dippers and More

The most heartbreaking story of the weekend so far came on Friday afternoon as the #16 Busch North team of Kip Stockwell loaded up early to head home from Irwindale.

Later in the evening, it turned into a heartening story…we’ll get to that chapter shortly.
Stockwell is one of the most bare-bones racers of the entire Northeast.  He and his father have scraped and scrapped in the Busch North Series for years.  This season, they’ve had moderate success and finished 15th in points.  They had earned an invitation once before, but had to turn it down because of a limited budget.  But this year, they were determined to make the trip and excited about going to the All-Star Showdown.

The first problem was that they wrecked their car in the season finale at Thompson.  Things looked very bleak for Stockwell until he went home and pulled out an out
Pontiac to bring out West.  The team managed to get it together and loaded onto Dale Shaw’s hauler to make the trip while Stockwell and his father piled their tools and spare parts into a pick-up truck and made the cross-country trip from the mountains of Vermont.  They even stopped at the Grand Canyon along the way.

In a perfect world, Stockwell would have came out to Irwindale and won the race.  In reality, he had a mechanical problem in practice and headed home early instead.

Stockwell was pretty dejected on Friday afternoon and didn’t feel much like chatting.  He did tell that he wasn’t going to chase down another team’s back-up car just to start the race.

“We came here to race,” said Stockwell.  “We didn’t come out here to finish 33rd.”

Stockwell and his volunteer crew started to load up their pick-up truck for the long trip home, but they did in prematurely.

Thanks to the generosity of another team, Stockwell will be back on track after all.  Shaw’s team owner Mark Willoughby and loaned him a spare engine as long as Shaw made it through Friday night’s qualifying races without a problem.  Shaw emerged from the event with his motor intact and Stockwell will be installing it into his #16 before Saturday’s feature.   


On his way out to Irwindale, Southeast Series driver Dusty Williams stopped at Phoenix International Raceway to take part in the Southwest Series finale.  Things didn’t go exactly according to plan – or back-up plan even.
“We had a less than delightful experience at Phoenix,” said Williams.  “We had a motor that was not doing well all day.  We went ahead and left it in there, qualified very dismal and turned that day into pretty much a test session for here.  We didn’t even take our stuff to pit road, we just left it in the garage and came in about five times to change springs, trailing arms and moving stuff around to prepare for today.”

Williams had a bad first lap and last lap at Phoenix.  In between wasn’t too bad though.

“Even as cautious as I was being to stay back and keep out of everyone’s way, we still found trouble,” said Williams.  “On the first lap, there was a wreck.  I got slowed up and run into from the back and pushed into somebody.  That was mostly cosmetic.  We did our stops and got to be pretty good and on the last lap, as we took the checkered flag, my right front tire blew out and we hit the turn two wall.  Once again, it was mostly cosmetic.”

It was announced at Irwindale that Portenga’s replacement at Bill McAnally Racing will be NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion Peyton Sellers.  The NASCAR Nextel Cup team of Richard Childress Racing has arranged the deal as part of their driver development program.

“This is hopefully going to be the start of a long relationship I’ll have with Richard Childress Racing,” said Sellers in a press release.  “I’ve been fairly successful so far in my racing career and this is another step on that path.”

Kip Stockwell didn't even have a number on his #6 car during practice.  (51 Photos)
The Williams team repaired their damage in time to practice on Friday at Irwindale.


Steve Portenga set the fastest time in Friday’s final practice for the Grand National division.  The NASCAR West Series driver put his #16 Chevrolet on top of the speed chart in what will be his final event driving the car.

We knew that we had a good car all weekend,” said Portenga.  “The NAPA Auto Parts car has been good.  Yesterday, we spent all day on old tires, we weren’t worried about anything.  We were practicing yesterday for what the car would be like at the end of the race and today we practiced with what the car is capable of doing.  It’s just a little bit of strategy on our parts to get them scratching their heads and the car is a lot faster than it’s even shown. 
“Hopefully I can win for King Taco because it’s my last race in the #16 car for the season and next year, they’re going to put someone else in the car.  It would be really cool to bow out with a victory.”

It doesn’t look like this will be Portenga’s final Showdown though.  He expects to be back in the West Series for 2006.

“I’m working on details for next year,” said Portenga.  “I’m going to be in a car in the West Series, I don’t know which car yet.  It will probably be a car which is running here this weekend, but for a different team.”
rookie teams from the Southeast, so we’re proud and we’re going to have a real good time.

“We also had a little adventure with the turn two wall,” said Stivers.  “So we’re scrambling a little bit.”

Stivers credits his crew with making it all possible.

“They have worked their tails off all year long.  They are all volunteers and they work three or four nights a week at the raceshop.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Now, after the garage closes on Friday night, it will be time to sleep.

“We’re really looking forward to some sleep,” said Stivers.  “This has been a great adventure for us.”


Eddie Stivers was another SES driver doing both events, like Williams and Norris, his race didn’t go as planned.  Then again, his whole week didn’t go as planned. 
“We got into California where we had leased a car [for Irwindale],” said Stivers.  “Then we found it that it wasn’t going to be ready through no fault of the people who we leased it from.  We had to go all the way to Stockton, California [from Phoenix on Wednesday night] to bring it back.  We had a 740-mile round trip.  If you add that to the jet lag and the time change, we had a long day yesterday.

“There’s not much but desert out there.  It was a long drive, but we’re just happy to be here.  We’re one of two
Eddie Stivers' #06.
“We didn’t run as good as we wanted to last night, so that kind of hurt our feelings,” said Norris.  “We had a real good car, we had a fast car and two or three times this year, we ended up with a flat tire and a few laps down to make up.  It was kind of like Nashville all over again.  We came back up to 15th.  I just can’t get lady luck on my side. 

Now, he’s working on part two of his plan and winning at Irwindale would make Phoenix a distant memory.

“This race here means probably more to me than any race that we’ll run all season,” said Norris.  “Hopefully, we’ll go out and get a good practice in and back that up with a good starting spot for tomorrow night.  That way, I can take my time and pick them off one-by-one.  I think that we’ll have a better car than last year and I have a better knowledge of the race track now.”
The #40 of Dusty Williams.
The #5 of Norris.
The #16 team prepares Steve Portenga's ride.