Stephan McCurley Learning It The Hard Way By Elgin Traylor
Texas Native Trucks East Every Weekend For ASA SAT Races
The ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour is putting the finishing touches on it’s inaugural season. Teams have come from all around the South to race in the popular series that is featured on national television, but just how far are teams willing to travel to race? Some come from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky, but for Stephan McCurley, the haul is just a bit longer. McCurley hails from Humble, Texas and each week he trucks east to race with the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour.
“Racing in Texas is nothing like racing on the East Coast,” explained McCurley. “Racing in Texas is kind of like, if you keep your car in one piece, you’ll be in the top three. Here (in the South), you have to have a competitive car to place in the top three and it’s one of those types of deals where you’re racing against the best.”
After 11 races this season, Stephan and his father Michael McCurley have logged 160 hours in their car hauler and 8900 miles on the road, each way.
“It’s a lot of road miles,” said Michael. “That’s what it was. A lot of long nights when you have to leave a day or two ahead to make it where we’re going to race at. It’s very long with sleepless nights.”
The long hauls every event can be tiring over the length of a season, but the performance on the track hasn't suffered. Stephan has logged four straight top-ten finishes, including a third at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) and a fourth at Lanier National Speedway (GA). But there is another twist to the story.
“I’ve never been to any of these tracks and none of them have been the same yet. They’ve all taken a little bit different set-ups and a lot of different driving styles. It has definitely taken my driving style to where I can adapt faster to different tracks.”
Even though he has overcome the long trips and the new backdrops, another obstacle has thrown a wrench into the mix for McCurley. While other teams bring several crew members to the track each event, Stephan and his dad are alone in their pits. Often times Stephan will exit his car during practice to get under it and turn a wrench or two. This does not go unnoticed as other teams occasionally offer up a few helping hands in the pits as Michael has to spot during the race. Fellow ASA SAT driver Chris Fontaine has become a close friend to the Texas native.
(top) Stephan gets out of the car after a practice run to work on the chassis. (bottom) Michael is alone in the pits when Stephan gets behind the wheel. (51 Photos)
“I really don’t know how he does it,” said Fontaine. “Stephan works on every part of that racecar. It's a miracle that he isn’t burnt out when he finally gets into the seat to drive it.”
At the same time, ASA SAT Series Officials have taken notice. Micky Cain is a former driver and winner of the prestigious World Crown 300. Now Cain is the Operations Manager for the Series and can relate to McCurley’s ability.
“This kid reminds me of a lot of me when I was growing up,” said Cain. “He does his own set ups, he does his own shocks, he does it all. Before Lanier he had cut the front end off the car and changed all the front-end geometry on the car with the roll centers and everything. He’s a kid that’s doing it the hard way and it’s working for him.”
It’s a situation where he can’t out spend the competition, but he is doing all he can to out think it. Working on his own stuff has gotten the attention of several teams and drivers.
“In a way, I think it might stand out and make everyone kind of realize if we had a little extra, we might be able to do better,” added Stephan. “But you never know until you have it. It’s all about opportunity and chance. I’m waiting for my win. I know it’s coming.”
With Stephan working on the car, it makes Michael’s job a lot easier around the shop.
“Here in the last year, year and a half, he has taken over the set-ups and everything,” added Michael. “He knows what he’s doing with the car and building the car. I pretty much just do what he tells me to. He builds his own shocks and stuff like that. He’s trying to get a better feel for what he needs. He’s getting better and he’s learning everyday.”
The next step for the McCurley family is to make the move east to North Carolina, but it’s a decision they don’t want to rush.
“We definitely want to move to North Carolina,” said Stephan. “It just depends on how sponsorship and that kind of stuff goes. We’re unsponsored right now and we’ve been browsing around, but it’s hard to get someone from Texas. We can’t just get up and move and jump states without some kind of plan.”
Stephen McCurley rarely has time to eat at the track, mostly because he and his dad are the only ones that work on his Late Model. (Late Model Digest photo)