LIME ROCK, CT - Randolph, Vermont's Kip Stockwell, driving for his family-owned team in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, concluded his 2003 campaign with a 23rd place finish at the final race of the year, the Burnham Boilers...
LIME ROCK, CT - Randolph, Vermont's Kip Stockwell, driving for his family-owned team in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, concluded his 2003 campaign with a 23rd place finish at the final race of the year, the Burnham Boilers 200 at the historic Lime Rock Park road course. Stockwell lost a number of laps when a broken axle forced him to take his car back to the garage for repairs.
Stockwell had made progress over his run at Lime Rock the previous year, as he was turning faster laps in practice than he did in the past, while most other drivers found they had slowed down as the track was slicker and the cars are required to carry more weight than in the past. Stockwell continued the improvement through qualifying, where he was 27th out of 37 cars attempting the race.
"We're really happy with the car," he said before the race. "We practiced all day on old tires, and we never did put new tires on until qualifying and we turned a pretty good time for a car that's not a road course car at all. We put a road course transmission in it for the first time and while I don't think we're any quicker with it, it's easier on me as a driver since I don't have to use a clutch anymore. We're a second quicker than we were here last year. As a driver I think I'm learning more about the turns and the speeds and how to adjust to the racetrack more, and maybe I'm not so afraid of throwing the car around. It's a lot more comfortable than it has been. We're getting better.
"Places like this are kind of intimidating when you grow up at a quarter-mile short track," Stockwell continued. "You don't know exactly what to do to change the car to make it any better at the track. My guys aren't experienced enough to know what to do on the road course, the only time they've been to a road course is when I've been to one. So whatever we learn, we learn on our own or we hear from somebody else. I talked to Dale Quarterley this morning about the downhill turn since I'm losing a little bit there compared to a lot of guys. I learned some stuff from him from what he does, and I think it's going to help me a lot during the race."
The Vermont driver ran well in the race's early laps, staying on the lead lap and setting up his pit strategy that would get him to the end of the race. But 24 laps into the 82-lap event, he had to come to pit road because of a mechanical problem. It was diagnosed as a broken axle, and Stockwell had to take his car back to the team's trailer for more extended repairs.
"We were good in the beginning of the race," he said. "All we wanted to do was stay out and not abuse the car. We were doing what we wanted to do because I knew everybody was going to be really rough, and they were. We broke a left rear axle and lost ten laps getting it changed because we couldn't get the piece out of the rear end. Then we had a flat tire from here in the gravel when we went back out, so we ran one lap and had to come back in to get another tire put on. That tire wasn't the right one, it was a little too small. It gave us plenty of stagger in the right turns which was great, but it really cost us momentum because we couldn't turn in the left-hander."
Stockwell summed up his season, which ended with his finishing fourteenth in points, earning himself an invitation to the first annual Toyota All-Star Shootout, which takes place in November at the Irwindale Speedway near Los Angeles, California.
"We didn't have a DNF all year, and we finished ahead of where we started all summer, so we're really happy with that," he said. "I can't thank the people that help me for the help and the dedication that they put in. This is all a volunteer deal, and I've got eight or ten people who have been dedicated to this team all summer. It's nice to not fall out of a race all summer; we had no DNFs, and this is the first race where we had a problem during the race, and they got it fixed so I could finish the race. We had a great year and we're looking forward to California in a few weeks."