Cary Stapp, the '08 Joe Gibbs...
Cary Stapp, the '08 Joe Gibbs Racing Oil ASA Member National Track Champion, is given the opportunity of a lifetime to meet with and test a car for Joe Gibbs Racing.
In recent years, there has been a change in our sport. Talent, which was once good enough to get you an opportunity for advancement in racing, has slowly started being replaced with youth that have a large check backing them. Many talented drivers are no longer getting the opportunities that they once did because of this youth movement.
Imagine if it's still possible, where an opportunity is given to a talented driver, not based on age or money, but rather based on his or her results from the previous year. I understand, it might be hard to fathom, but this exact scenario played out recently in South Boston, Virginia. 2008 ended with 32-year-old Cary Stapp becoming the first American Speed Association Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil Member National Track Champion.
The week started out with...
The week started out with a tour of Joe Gibbs Racing which included meeting crew chief Mike Sibley.
Cary is a full-time electrician and family man with his wife Kelli, 13-year-old stepson Trey, and his 10-year-old daughter Mikala. When he isn't putting in a hard day's work on the job, Cary can be found putting in a hard night's work in the garage on his ASA A-line Super Stock race car. He competes at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, where in 2008 he recorded eight wins and 15 top fives, good enough to earn the track championship. In addition, he accumulated enough points in the ASA Member National Track Championship chase to be crowned the National Champion. More on how that National Championship is determined can be found in the sidebar.
Sponsored by Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil, the ASA Member National Track Championship includes a very big prize. As a part of the championship, the driver from Marcos, Texas, was given the opportunity to test with the premiere NASCAR organization, Joe Gibbs Racing. "This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Cary exclaimed. "Even if nothing else comes out of this, how many people can say that they have driven a car owned by the famous Joe Gibbs?"
Circle Track wanted to follow Cary on his trek to the Carolinas and watch the test at the historic South Boston Speedway.
Cary and Mike talk about South...
Cary and Mike talk about South Boston Speedway, site of the test.
The week would eventually start out pretty early for Cary and Kelli, as they had to leave their Texas home at four in the morning to catch a flight out to Greensboro International Airport. They arrived at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Huntersville, NC, right around noon, accompanied by Dennis Huth, President of ASA.
Before heading to the track, Cary and company spent the afternoon at JGR's shop for a seat fitting, private facility tour, and a sit down chat with team President J.D. Gibbs. Cary was going to be driving an ex-Tony Stewart Sprint Cup car that is now being raced in the Camping World East Series by Marc Davis and Joey Logano. He spoke strategy with crew chief Mike Sibley (who won the Camping World East Championship in 2007 with Logano) and the crew before getting a first-class tour of the Nationwide and Sprint Cup shops.
During the tour, he was bombarded with congratulations and questions like, "Have you ever driven anything like this?" In all honesty, he hadn't, but that didn't shake his confidence. "I have driven a 400hp Late Model on an 8 inch tire, so I think I'll be able to transfer a lot from that," he said.
The car that he was going to pilot was no joke. Before we entered the Cup shop, Cary ran into Logano, who spoke with him about the car. "That car is a beast," said the Cup Series Rookie. "With Marc and me, that car has not finished worse than Second."
On the first day Cary had...
On the first day Cary had a seat fitting at the shop to ensure that the seat was a comfortable fit, and that his helmet radio connections matched the ones in the car.
After the tour, Cary sat down with J.D. Gibbs and talked for more than an hour, interrupted only once by J.D.'s father, Super Bowl-winning coach, Joe Gibbs.
J.D. made it perfectly clear to Cary that this was a real opportunity, "Cary, I tell you, much is said about the youth movement, but if you go out and turn some amazing laps, I'll put you in that ride for next year," said Gibbs. This really was no joke. After we finished speaking with J.D. he showed us around a little more of the Cup shop before wrapping up the day.
Tuesday was a travel day and when we arrived at South Boston on Wednesday Cary said, "I'm not so much nervous as I am just anxious, I just want to get out there."
One of the highlights of the...
One of the highlights of the week was when Cary got to meet Super Bowl-winning coach, Joe Gibbs.
The most Cary had seen of the track was just a glimpse of the layout on the Internet. Being a smart racer, he made a few phone calls. "Trey Mitchell, who races at South Boston, used to race at Thunderhill, so I got a hold of him to get some pointers," Cary said. "He is a local Texas guy who moved up here and he said it's a lot like my home track, where the fast groove is on the bottom."
After a night of restless sleep Cary, Kelli, and Dennis showed up at South Boston Speedway at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, which might have been the coldest day yet this winter in Virginia. It was 24 degrees outside. Needless to say, I was horribly unprepared for the cold weather, thankfully Kelli was (thanks again for the hand warmers).
J.D. Gibbs spent more than...
J.D. Gibbs spent more than two hours speaking with Cary and showing him the Cup Shop.
As the group battled the cold weather, the cars were prepped and around 10 a.m., the engines were fired and warmed up. The racer in me started looking at the cars to get a gauge on how well they were prepared. I wanted to know if this experience was a genuine test, or if it was more of a ride-along. I quickly noticed that the cars had full data acquisition systems. JGR was going to be recording everything from shock travel data to driver input data. I was convinced that this was going to be a true test for Cary.
As Cary was getting strapped in for his test I leaned in the window and said, "You know the problem is going to be once you drive this thing, you're going to want to buy one after that."
Cary getting strapped in to...
Cary getting strapped in to the Camping World East car.
"Ha! I couldn't afford one of these," Cary laughed back. "Heck, I couldn't afford a set of tires for this car." Cary finished getting strapped in and took out to the 4/10-mile short-track. A lot of laps were spent just getting everything warm. Finally, Cary started to pick up the pace, and in a matter of time the car was up to full speed. Earlier in the morning we found out that Marc Davis, the regular driver of the car, had shown up the prior day and shook the car down. The crew let us know that Davis ran 16.0s pretty consistently the day before.
Cary turned about 15 to 20 laps in his first session and honestly looked extremely smooth. I expected to see the back end snap out a little in his early sessions because of the added horsepower of these cars. As he pulled the car in I leaned over to a crewmember and asked him how Cary did. "Ummm, he turned a two that time," was the response.
Make no mistake about it,...
Make no mistake about it, this was not just a ride-along experience. JGR brought Cary a car that could turn extremely fast lap times.
He nodded back. In his first time out Cary was only two tenths off of Davis' time. Impressive, especially when you consider it was Cary's first experience in this type of car and on South Boston's pavement.
Sibley and the Gibbs crew let him make some changes before sending him back out on the track with a set of new rubber. He proceeded to shock everyone and run a 15.98. Cary was making the most of his opportunity. He would spend almost two hours in the car before they called it a day, hitting a fast time of 15.9 while consistently running 16.0s. After the test, Cary strutted around the pit area talking with crewmembers grinning from ear to ear.
"We could not have asked for a better representative for our first year of doing this," said Dennis Huth. "Cary exemplifies everything that the ASA stands for." I would have to agree, Cary was extremely down to earth and I would love to see JGR take the next step and put him in a car next season.
For now, Cary is planning on running in a Texas Late Model Touring Series next year. "I will never forget this and I want to thank Joe, J.D. Gibbs, and ASA for giving me this experience," said Cary. ASA is planning on making this an annual event, so keep racing at the local level. You never know where it could lead!
So, you want to get in on the action like Cary Stapp and win the ASA Short Track National Championship and the prestigious tryout with Joe Gibbs Racing? Well, read carefully, as this is how to do it.
For starters you have to race at an American Speed Association Level 1 Member Track. Each track nominates one class to be its featured division and you must not only be competing in that class, but you must also be the current year track champion in that class. From there, it's all about gathering points. Do that by passing lots of cars on the racetrack. Actually, pass lots and lots of cars.
The points formula used to calculate the ASA Short Track National Champion is, naturally, extremely complex. Think of the ASA point structure a little like a batting average in baseball. But, while a baseball average is shown in a decimal form (like .250), the ASA number will be a digit extended to four decimal points (such as 4.4321). Most competitors will see their ASA number somewhere in the 5 to 6 point range. Cary Stapp won with an average of 5.179. The next closest competitor was Linny White at Orange Show Speedway in California who had an average of 5.095. That, my friends, is the number you need to be looking for to have a chance at winning the ASA National Short Track Championship. For a complete explanation of the points system, head over to www.asa-racing.com.
ASA plans on this being an...
ASA plans on this being an annual event, so keep racing at your local ASA racetrack and you never know where it could lead.
Of course his obligations...
Of course his obligations weren't over after he stepped out of the car, the television show 3-Wide Life was on hand to follow Cary's experience.
Everyone at Circle Track would...
Everyone at Circle Track would like to congratulate Cary Stapp, your 2008 ASA Member National Track Champion.