Kip Stockwell Encouraged By Lime Rock Performance Despite Accident Lime Rock, Conn. (Sept. 30, 2006) - Kip Stockwell was rarely a contender for a top-ten finish when the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series visited the Lime Rock...
Kip Stockwell Encouraged By Lime Rock Performance Despite Accident
Lime Rock, Conn. (Sept. 30, 2006) - Kip Stockwell was rarely a contender for a top-ten finish when the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series visited the Lime Rock Park road course in the past. But that changed on Saturday when Stockwell put his No. 16 Sabil & Sons Chevrolet in the top five and kept it there for many laps of the Mohegan Sun 200, the season's final race. Even after falling to eighth, Stockwell was not in danger of falling out of the top ten until he was spun into a tire barrier by another competitor, forcing him to the garage area to make repairs before returning to the event and finishing 22nd.
Stockwell, trying to get a strong finish to his best season yet in the East Series, got a little help the night before the track opened for practice and qualifying on Friday.
"Brian Hoar came by the motorhome and he gave me a lot of pointers for how to get into the corners," he said. "They really helped. He gave me some ideas that I would have never thought of. It probably gave me a couple of seconds a lap compared to how we've been here. And I know the car's better, and that helps a lot, but there's a lot of things coming together to help us go better here."
Trying to put those tips to good use, Stockwell put in lap after lap of practice but then tangled with another car in the first turn, forcing a quick rebuild of the left front suspension and some quick bodywork before qualifying. In that session, he turned in the seventeenth-fastest time, which was a bit of a letdown after posting the twelfth fastest lap in practice earlier.
"We had a really good car for us here. I'm really excited," he said. "We could have backed it up in qualifying but somebody went off in turn one and sprayed the racetrack with mud. The first time I got down there I didn't know what happened. I just drove in there and the car washed way up. I didn't over-drive it, I drove it in there the same way all day. I got the left side tires down in the mud but I recovered. I went in there the next time and did the same thing all over again."
Pit strategy played a role in Stockwell's race again, though not by choice.
"We really needed to pit when the leaders did. And we tried, but we couldn't find a gasman," he said. Some leaders pitted on lap 16 and others on lap 32 while Stockwell stayed out. He moved up to fifth for the lap 37 restart and held his ground. While some cars got by him, they did so one at a time rather than rushing by all at once, and he only fell to eighth at lap 40. Plans were in the works to pit at the same time the leader, Mike Olsen, did, so Stockwell was just putting in laps until that time would come. But another racer spun Stockwell off the track on the back part of the course and put him in a tire barrier with damage to both the left and right sides of the car.
"We got taken out by somebody who doesn't race with us regularly," he said. "I don't think there's a panel on the car that isn't bent. We got both sides and the real quarter panel to fix, and it's going to be a lot of work."
Stockwell drove to the pits where the suspension damage was deemed too severe to be fixed on pit road, and the car went back to the team's hauler. Having lost twenty laps, he returned to competition and ran to the finish despite the damage, though the 22nd place finish surely wasn't indicative of what the car and Stockwell were capable of on this day.
"We were a top ten car all day," he said after the race. "The car was phenomenal, it was the first time I was at a road course with a car that good. I wasn't over-driving it, I wasn't abusing the brakes. We were running in the top five and that was great for us. I knew when we were going into that last restart that there were a bunch of guys behind us who had stopped for gas and had fresh tires. I was holding my own and we had a really good car. I ran fifth for a while, and sixth and seventh for a long while, and we were still in the top ten when we got taken out."
There's some work to be done before the car can leave for California to take part in the annual Toyota NASCAR All-Star Showdown, which Stockwell earned an invitation to for the second straight year after finishing the season eleventh in points.
"Thankfully, we have a couple weeks before we go to California. I hate it for my father because we worked really hard this week and we needed a good run. He's happy because we did run as well as we did at a road course. The car handled good, it drove good, and it responded to the changes we made to it," he said.