Kip Stockwell's Season Starts As Best Yet With Eleventh Place Finish At Stafford (Stafford Springs, Conn. - June 16 2006) - Kip Stockwell followed up his tenth place finish in last week's NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series opener...
Kip Stockwell's Season Starts As Best Yet With Eleventh Place Finish At Stafford
(Stafford Springs, Conn. - June 16 2006) - Kip Stockwell followed up his tenth place finish in last week's NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway with an eleventh place finish in Friday night's TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at the half-mile Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. The two finishes put Stockwell eighth in the series points standings after two of eleven races.
Following a short week between races where Stockwell's family team had bodywork to repair on his No. 16 Chevrolet, the Braintree, Vermont driver took to Stafford's track Friday afternoon for practice and qualifying. He took the seventeenth starting spot.
"The car's pretty good, I'm pretty excited," he said before the race. "We're consistent and we're better than we were here last year or the year before that. Things are looking up. It's our best qualifying effort here in a few years too, so we're happy. We turned the fastest lap we turned all day in qualifying and I think we've got something for the race, maybe a top ten car."
Stockwell said the changes to the car made over the winter, including a new front clip, are paying off.
"The new snout has really made a difference. It drives better, it feels better, and it's a lot more comfortable. I can drive it harder into the turns than I ever could before. Once we figure out what it wants we can really make it better, but we have to learn that first," he said.
Stockwell started the race by moving forward, approaching the top ten through the first third of the event and running as high as ninth. But he faded to thirteenth and made the call to pit under a lap 93 caution.
"We didn't have anything for anybody, and I decided to put tires on and make a chassis change to help the car up off the turns."
Returning to the race at the tail of the lead lap cars, he tried to take advantage of the fresh tires but found lapped traffic troublesome.
"We had a lot of problems with lapped cars that were ahead of us on restarts and they shouldn't have been, they're supposed to fall to the rear," he said. "There were a few of them ahead of us on restarts and they shouldn't have been. We used our tires up a little bit early just getting past the lapped cars after each restart."
The final third of the 150-lap race was interrupted by four cautions and a twenty-minute red flag period. Stockwell had climbed back into the top ten, but on late restarts couldn't get up to speed as quickly as other cars and, despite making some bold outside moves in the closing laps, finished eleventh.
"I had troubles on restarts because I had to use the clutch instead of a Jericho transmission where you can just jam it into gear. We lost momentum down the frontstretch on restarts and guys would just blow by us. We were ninth on the last restart and finished eleventh just because we couldn't get going as well as the other guys."
Stockwell summed up his team's performance through the first two Busch East races.
"We've got a really good racecar," he said, "but we're not quite as quick as the big teams. All that takes is big money. But when it comes down to the race, we're as good as anybody on the racetrack. We just don't have the track position because of our qualifying. I think we were probably as good as the top-five guys tonight, we just didn't get the track position to run with them. I don't know how to conquer that. I don't know how to make the car that much better for a two-lap qualifying run. If we could run with the top guys right from the start of the race I think we could really show them something.
"This is our best start ever in this series," Stockwell continued. "We've never started this good. Doing as well as we are is the best thing in the world. It's the best thing for my family, for my wife, for my little boy, and it's really good considering we have no sponsor on the car. Hopefully this will attract somebody to help us out. It's the little things we need help with. We need help to go buy a good used Jericho transmission. Things like that would make our racing a lot easier. But we're doing well and we've got a good start going."
Next up for the series is the annual stop at Holland International Speedway in western New York state. The high-banked 3/8ths mile oval is one of Stockwell's favorites.
"This week we'll concentrate on making the chassis better and putting our road course Jericho transmission in. We'll do some chassis work this week instead of bodywork, and that's good. We can't go to Holland and give up two or three spots on each restart. If we're going to be as competitive as we were today, we can't go there and give up spots on restarts.
"Holland's going to be a good track for us, it always has been," he continued. "We've got a little work to do this week but it's all in a positive way instead of a negative way. Our car doesn't look nearly as bad as some of those that got beat up tonight, and we ran as hard as any of those guys did. We were just lucky and didn't get caught up in those wrecks. A lot of credit goes to my wife who's spotting, she did great tonight. I was on the wheel and I could see the wrecks as they were happening and didn't get into a position to get torn up."