TERRE HAUTE —
Momentum, an element that can be as elusive to a race driver as that perfect setup, can spell the difference in winning or running at the rear of the pack.
It’s a force difficult to achieve and maybe even harder to maintain. One learns quickly to make the most of the opportunity when it comes his way.
It’s something Chase Stockon will carry with him coming into today’s Jim Hurtubise Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Only days following the biggest victory of his young and promising career, the $10,000-to-win USAC feature at Lawrenceburg, Stockon followed that up with another rich payday this past weekend at Tri-State Speedway.
The latest checkered flag came in the Midwest Sprint Car Series special on the southern Indiana banked quarter-mile dirt oval.
In a season that has generated the highest and lowest of times for the Sullivan County native, the 24-year-old Stockon can only hope the momentum factor will remain on his side as he seeks that elusive “home track” win this weekend.
It’s been a banner season thus far for Stockon, with his first USAC feature win ever and a host of top-five finishes putting him seventh in the national sprint car series rankings and 10th in USAC National Drivers Championship points.
While it might be difficult to single out any one reason for his success this season, Stockon says years of pounding the Midwest dirt tracks is starting to pay off. That and a little bit of good fortune has fallen his way.
“You can never get enough of good luck. That’s just part of racing, part of life. We just hope it stays with us, especially this weekend,” said the upbeat Stockon.
After a slow start in the season-opening swing in Florida back in February, the Elizabethtown-based team is continuing to build momentum off the strength of the team’s success in the “Eastern Swing Tour” in June in Pennsylvania.
“Things really started turning around for us with that trip,” Stockon recalled.
“Everything just started falling in place. Me as a driver, having the right equipment, and as a team, we started hitting on the right setups. It’s something that just comes with experience.”
“It [experience] goes a long way in this sport. It’s not something that just comes your way overnight. You have to work at it. It’s not always easy for you as a driver or those around you who pay the price to get you where you are.”
Part of that price is the financial burden that goes with running in a national series.
Following the Terre Haute race this weekend, the USAC sprint slate calls for a race in Michigan on Sunday night followed by a four-race California tour next month to close out the season.
Stockon’s success of late will help fray the costs for the western swing, where he hopes to keep his lofty standings in the points and maybe even move up to a coveted top-five ranking.
“We’ve had a couple nice paydays here in Indiana over the past couple weeks, so that will help a lot with the costs. We’ve been lucky to have a sponsor like Tom Burkby out of Beech City, Ohio, with Superior Tank and Trailers, so that’s kept us going,” added the driver of the No. 32 First Financial Sprinter.
As for the points, his run of 11 top-five finishes over the past 14 races ought to provide the momentum to move up a couple spots in the points.
“It would be nice to get fifth, but we’re not going to hang our heads if we finish sixth or seventh,” Stockon said. “Who knows if we hadn’t had the slow start at the beginning of the year, we might have been shooting for a third-place spot.”
All the success that has come his way in 2012 is tempered by the passing of his mother Laura in August after a long, courageous bout with cancer. While she might not be here to enjoy the success of the team that still carries her name, as car owner Chase says, she remains as much a part of the team today as when she was alive.
“I’ve been very fortunate that my mom and dad have always been behind my efforts to go racing,” he emphasized. “They made a lot of personal sacrifices over the years to get me where I am today.
“It really hurts knowing mom is not around to share the success with our wins, but we all know that she is watching over us. We’re out to give our most every time we go to the race track. She wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
• Title showdowns — This weekend’s two-day USAC sprint car-Silver Crown cards at Fairgrounds will determine the championship in the big cars while offering up a key stop on the run for the championship in the sprints.
Only six points separated current point leader Bobby East and his nearest rival Jerry Coons Jr. for the big-car crown. Kody Swanson, just 11 markers back, and Bud Keading, 42 points out, are all still in contention for the title.
Dave Darland leads the tight points chase in the sprint division, clinging to a 24-point advantage over Bryan Clauson with Jon Stanbrough only 26 points back.
Joe Buckles can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.