#16 Driver Wins His First Busch North Race, But Struggles Without Cash
Kip Stockwell finished 13th at Lee USA Speedway (NH) to start out the NASCAR Busch North season. For most drivers, that would have been a bad week. For Stockwell, it tied his best finish in nearly two seasons. When it comes to ability, Stockwell isn't a backmarker driver, but when
it comes to budget, he sure is.
"I've got all the talent that these other guys do," said Stockwell. "I just don't have the same tools to work with."
On occasion though, he has managed to overcome that hurdle when taking on the racing world.
On August 1, 1997, Stockwell scored one for the little guys of racing when he rolled out onto his hometrack - the Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT). The local driver was four days shy of his 24th birthday at the time and his family-owned team put together an Oldsmobile to attempt to qualify for the first NASCAR Busch North Series race at the track.
Stockwell was able to trade off the disadvantages of inexperience and a shoestring budget for the advantage of knowing his hometrack. He qualified second for his series
The role of an underdog is one that Kip Stockwell knows well. (51 Photo)
debut and had an even better race outing. He held off a top five filled with his childhood heroes, Dave
Dion, Stub Fadden, Bobby Dragon and Jamie Aube to won the race.
"It was obviously the highlight of my career as a racecar driver," said Stockwell. "I look back at that day, see a picture of it or watch the VHS tape of it and it makes me happy. That was great."
Stockwell discusses his car's set-up with his team earlier this season at Lee. (51 Photo)
It was a great moment for Stockwell, but the early taste of success would not be easily duplicated for the team. In 106 starts since his debut, Stockwell has only been able to score one other top five finish.
"I wish that we could come just close to that day," said Stockwell. "Those days are really hard to come by."
Lately, with the limited resources that the team has to work with, just getting to the track can be a victory in itself.
"It's an uphill battle everyday," Stockwell said. "It is a struggle just to keep going because of the financial end of it. Some of the bigger teams have seven or eight cars and we have two. Some of those teams have four or five full-time
This bond between father and son is a special one in the garage.
"I don't know that I've ever seen a father and a son work so well
together," said Stockwell. "There was a time in my racing career when we didn't work well together. When I was a teenager growing up, my father was the dumbest man that I knew. It seems like the older that I get, the smarter that my father gets. I understand that I really wasn't as smart as I should have been back then."
There are good and bad points about such a close knit team.
"We all understand each other. The hardest part is if we have an issue with somebody, it isn't just with someone that you see on the weekend. We take it home with us. That's the problem with a family
Sponsor decals have been scarce on Stockwell's #16 machine over the past few seasons. (NASCAR Touring Photo)
based team. If you don't see a guy until the next day, you can brush things off easier;
with family it's harder.
"We have our days when we slept wrong. didn't get any sleep or for some reason we aren't getting along. But for the most part we stay on a pretty even keel. There aren't many teams that have that combination."
One of the most recognizable things about the Stockwell team has to do with his father's choice of a tow rig. The team uses a 1975 International regular cab truck to tow their trailer from race to race.
Stockwell Racing's rig isn't the newest or biggest truck in the Busch North garage, but it might have the most character. (51 Photo)
"My father likes his trucks and this one is his favorite," said
Stockwell. "We actually have four or five older trucks in the family business. We have a newer double cab International, but he's partial to this one. It's a conversation piece to go through towns in New England and New York. People sure look at it and that's cool. But mostly it's my father's truck and that's what he wants."
It's been a challenge to get the truck to the races, but Stockwell thinks that they can continue to chase the entire Busch North schedule.
"We're going to keep trying," said Stockwell. "We'll be able to do it if everything goes well - if we don’t destroy any cars and blow 'em up one after another. We're pretty optimistic to get through the summer."
Stockwell is well known and respected in the pit area. Here he talks to Sue Santerre, wife of two time champion Andy. (NASCAR Touring Photo)
The team might run the full schedule, but their favorite events are the bullrings.
"Our strong point is the short tracks," said Stockwell. "We can be a threat at places like Seekonk and Waterford. I think at places like that it comes down to more driver than equipment. We're on a little bit more equal footing there and it's driver against driver."
When the team goes to the larger tracks on the series, like Thompson, New Hampshire or Dover, the gap between the haves and the have nots widens.
employees and we have none. We do this all at night. Those guys can work in the morning when they are the freshest and best and we're trying to make a living "
The Stockwell team is centered around Kip and his father, Lennie. During the day, they run a garage in rural Randolph, Vermont. Kip works on street cars as a Master ASE automotive technician and Lennie drives a tow truck.
"There's basically three of us who get things done at the shop," said Stockwell. "Myself, my father and Matt (Hardy) do all of the work."
Still, stepping down into a lower division isn't an option that
Stockwell is considering. He finished in the top ten of the ACT Late Model point standings twice in his career, but likes being a part of the Busch North racing world.
"The ACT Series is an awesome series, they run a lot of the tracks I grew up around like Thunder Road and Airborne, but I don't feel that I'll ever run on a full-time basis with ACT ever again because it's just not what I want to do," Stockwell said. "I want to travel on an advanced tour like Busch North. When I finally decide that I've had enough of racing and want to give it up, whether it is five years from now or
thirty years from now, I'll probably do something totally
different. I might watch a few races on TV, but I'll probably spend more time at home mowing the lawn and holding yard sales. I don't believe that I'll ever go back to another series than this one."
Being in Busch North has given Stockwell the chance to race against his heroes.
"When I grew up, all that I wanted to do was to race with Stub Fadden and it didn't matter what that meant," said Stockwell. "The first time that I raced against him (in 1997 at Thunder Road), I won and he finished third. That was a dream come true."
Being able to race against his heroes, like Dave Dion, is a big reason why Stockwell likes the Busch North Series. (NASCAR Touring Photo)
Stockwell doesn't aspire to move beyond Busch North racing either.
"I don't know that I ever had the aspirations to go South and race," said Stockwell. "I'm really content racing here. We don't have the people or the budget to race at a higher level, so moving up isn't even a thought at this point. As a driver, if I could be a little more consistent and have some better races here it might be different. As it is right now, I'm just happy to be here."
Would jumping to a high dollar team be a career path for the Vermont driver? Stockwell isn't sure that would be his best path to take either.
"I like where I am because my father and I have control over everything that we do," said Stockwell. "I wouldn't jump this ship unless it was a really good deal. It would have to be a top team for me to even consider it and even then I would have to look at it for a long time before deciding anything."
What he would like to do is to keep his own team running with a little bit less effort.
"I would like to put together better runs up here, but I'm not sure how to do that without physically killing each other,' said Stockwell. "We just can't put any more hours or work in. Every day it gets a little bit harder and a little bit tougher. The bigger teams keep raising the stakes a little bit more every year."
Stockwell doesn't need a mantle of trophies to be happy, but he would like to have some solid and respectable finishes while sharing that with his family.
The #16 team rolls through NASCAR's tech inspection, (51 Photo)
"We won a lot of races at Thunder Road together and I'd just like to get close to it again," said Stockwell. "We don't have to win to make me happy. We just need some more solid finishes."