Walk through any pit area of any racetrack in the country and you can find them, in fact you can always find them. Nestled among the Kenworth trailed stackers with pop-out living quarters are open home-built trailers with a pickup truck for a tow vehicle. The tool boxes are small, the spare tires few. They run on dirt or asphalt and sometimes on both.
Call them Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Pure Stocks, Pro Stocks, Bomber, Gladiator, or any of the other number of designations given by the track/series promoter, but they're the backbone of short track racing. There are roughly 110,000 subscribers to this magazine and a recent reader survey conducted over our website showed that 35 percent of you climb behind the wheel of what, for the purposes of this article, we'll call a Street Stock.
A typical Street Stock pit...
A typical Street Stock pit area; lots of cars and plenty of open trailers. This one is at Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, AR. Comp Cams
They are, by many accounts, one of the most affordable and readily available forms of racing to jump into. After all, most Street Stock rules start with "any American OEM full body rear-wheel drive passenger car, 1964 or newer, full frame or unibody," plus they allow for any American-made engine so long as it has steel heads, steel block, and a stock oil pan. Sure, there are rules such as no independent rear suspensions that restrict the later year models but the wide range of years available means that it's fairly easy to find those cars in salvage yards and in used car dealerships.
With a minimum wheelbase of 107.5 inches in most rule books, the GM Metric Chassis, a.k.a. the Monte Carlo, Regal, Cutlass cars, are extremely popular. However, those cars' high roll center makes them a challenge to set up correctly. That can be a blessing in disguise for a young racer who wants to further his or her career. What better way to learn than on a challenging chassis? Young racers can learn valuable problem solving skills on these cars.
Street Stock racing can be...
Street Stock racing can be wild and wooly as evidenced by the bumper bars on No. 20 in this action from East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, FL. Mike Horne
A typical Saturday night Street Stock race includes everything from an '88 Monte Carlo to a '76 Thunderbird and more, making it one of the purest form of "stock" car racing today, albeit the cars running these classes don't resemble anything coming out of Detroit today.
The people who race Street Stocks are almost as varied as the cars themselves; from bank presidents to local mechanics to up-and-coming 15-year-old girls. The diversity of the Street Stock racer is one of the traits that make the class so interesting.
At one point just over a year ago, we ran a "Turn Five" column titled "Your Story Here" asking the readership to tell us about low-buck racers who have impressed them. The only rule, if I recall, was that the racers in question had to be true low-buck guys and gals, no stacker toter homes or fancy sponsors, just average racers. We got a tremendous response.
Not surprisingly, the large majority of the racers run in the Street Stock ranks. In a bit of a departure from the traditional magazine Q&A type of interview format, we compiled a sampling of the letters we received about these different racers to include in this article. What we realized was that all Street Stock racers seem to have one common trait--a very strong work ethic on a very limited budget. While that argument can be made for a lot of racers, the guys and gals of the Street Stock ranks seem to epitomize the budget racer best of all.
Take the case of Bruce Stanley, who races at Marshfield Motor Speedway, a half-mile blacktop track located outside of Marshfield, Wisconsin, in the Super Stock class. Bruce is usually one of the first ones to get to the track when the gates open. He doesn't have a crew or fancy trailer but is always one of the first ones out for hot laps and time trials. Bruce doesn't time in the fastest and usually ends up in the middle of the pack, but he has the respect of the other drivers and races just to have a good time. How do we know about Bruce? Mark and Donna Freirer who operate a parts trailer and sell fuel at Marshfield told us.
Street Stocks can be found...
Street Stocks can be found everywhere; from flat asphalt tracks like Kalamazoo, Michigan, to the high banks of Winchester Speedway in Indiana to the clay of East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa.
Then there's Mike Hughes who races at Lasalle Speedway in Lasalle, Illinois, in the Street Stock division. He works five and sometimes six days a week as a mechanic in a local garage. Before climbing in his own car, Mike worked on a friend's Late Model. And while still in high school, he began building his first Street Stock using parts that he had picked up from various places. After several years of finding and rebuilding pieces, he finally had a complete Street Stock. At the end of 2004 Mike ran his first race. A typical race day will see Mike working from 5 in the morning until noon before rushing to the garage to get the car ready to go to the track. He would also take time away during the week to recycle metals and use the money to put new parts onto the car. This would often lead to long days and long nights loading the trailer up to take metal to the scales the next morning.
Three years after that first race, Mike's hard work finally paid off with a heat race win. He has continued to race and beat better-funded teams. "Mike Hughes, in my eyes, defines what a budget racer is. He has inspired me that no matter what if you want something bad enough, you can work your ass off and get it," says his friend and crew chief John Hogue. In 2008 Mike finished Seventh in points out of 40 racers.
An anonymous race fan wrote in to tell us about David Whetstone "a real grassroots race team," as the reader put it. David races at Thunder Valley Raceway in Central City, Pennsylvania. Dreaming of racing since he was 10 years old, he's now in his third season racing his Semi-Late Model which from Thunder Valley's rule book is basically a Street Stock. He nabbed his first feature win in just his second season, on August 11, 2007. Like most of Street Stock Nation, this young man has paid for everything out of his own paycheck. He built his car in his parent's garage, welding everything himself. It was, not surprisingly, put together with all used parts including tires, wheels, the rearend, axles, and more. After building the motor with his father, David even went to the scrap yard and bought lead, melting it himself to make weights.
Pennsylvania racer David Whetstone...
Pennsylvania racer David Whetstone has gained the respect of his fellow competitors and fans through his charity work. Ralph Layton
While collecting your first feature win in a car that uses weights that you melted yourself is pretty cool in its own right, David went a step further. As the story goes from our reader, Whetstone took his race car to a local car show to help raise money for children with cancer. During the appearance, David decided to let people at the show sign their name on his car in exchange for a donation to the cancer charity. Out came the Sharpie and $775.50 later David had a car adorned with race fans' autographs.
David also carries the POW/MIA logo and American flag on his car during his home track's Veteran's Day celebrations. And he is always willing to lend a part or helping hand to his fellow racers.
Kansas racer Jeff Grimm read the column and wrote, "Hi Rob. Your February `Turn Five' pitch for `have nots' leaves me no choice but write to you about my dear friend and competitor, Dave Cattrell, driver of the 99C Hobby Stock at Heartland Park Topeka."
A common trait among Street...
A common trait among Street Stock racers is their love of the sport. We're wondering what she's laughing at? Mike Horne
Grimm writes, "You will never meet a more soft spoken and sweet 40-something-year-old guy who has struggled to win a feature trophy for 20 years.Dave had a rough childhood with an alcoholic father who was a racer.His dad died when he was in high school leaving him an old feature trophy won many years ago.Dave's life goal is to win a trophy of his own to sit beside his dad's on the fireplace mantel.
"Last year Dave campaigned to a Fourth place finish in the year end series standings at Heartland Park.He had the whole family gathered at the banquet only to find out that Heartland Park only gave trophies through Third Place.
Many Street Stock racers are...
Many Street Stock racers are their own crew chief and mechanic. Comp Cams
"Dave has two sponsors: Lori Beth's Bakery who packs him sandwiches before each race, and T.O. Haas Tire where Dave is the alignment technician.Haas lets him align his (and my) race car after hours for free. That's all the help he gets . . . sandwiches and late night alignments.
"Dave has a great relationship with Bob, the local junk man in our rural Kansas town of 3,500 people.Bob brings Dave junk cars that look to have race-worthy parts on them. Dave grabs whatever he can afford at the time, and puts together a race car. Each year the rules move farther away from `Pure Stock' and Dave winces in pain with each `race' part allowed. By the way, he paints his car with a roller like you would use on your house.
"Dave might be a `have not' but when I wrecked my car last year, Dave showed up the following day with two radiators from his precious inventory."
Like many racers, Street Stockers...
Like many racers, Street Stockers are always there to lend a helping hand when a fellow competitor needs it. Jeri Mitchell
Fathers, Sons, And Families We have talked numerous times in the pages of Circle Track of how racing is a true family sport. That statement was no more evident than in the pages and emails written in response to the column. Case in point was the letter about James Scott. The writer told of the 21-year-old's blue Ford Pinto and his pit crew consisting only of his father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, and girlfriend. He races his rear-wheel drive car at Paducah International Raceway in Kentucky and Clarksville Speedway in Tennessee.
The writer went onto say that James can stretch a dollar better than anybody, from having Dad hook cables to the car, connect them to two trees, and straighten out the dents and bends after one particularly rough night of racing with four different types of tiresandwheels due to not being able to find a complete set. But what really got our attention was when the writer proudly proclaimed, "This is only a brief part of James' story. I should I know, I am hismother!"
Pam Scott's letter about James showed not only the dedication and pride of a mother, but also how entire families work together in pursuit of the racing dream.
The father and son Canandian...
The father and son Canandian duo of Rick (No. 66) and Cliff (No. 87) Mitchell haul a minimum of six hours every week to race their Street Stocks. Jeri Mitchell
It's that dedication that really showed through in the story of the father and son duo of Rick and Cliff Mitchell and their Red Rabbitt Racing team out of Fernie, British Columbia. Now if you don't know where Fernie is, it's about 5 hours and 20 minutes northeast of Spokane, Washington, and about 3 hours and 20 minutes southwest of Calgary. That's important because the Mitchells race at three different tracks, the closest one being 3 hours from their house. That's right folks, this racing family tows a minimum of six hours per week to race their Street Stocks for $80. Theirs is one of the more unique stories we ran into in writing this article.
Cliff, who is now 19, started helping his dad, Rick, in the pits at age 13. His parents had to get special permission and sign a waiver to get the teen in, and not only did young Cliff help in his dad's pits but he helped out the track safety crew as well.
The Mitchell's racing team...
The Mitchell's racing team is a family affair--aunts, uncles, even the girlfriends get in on the action. Jeri Mitchell
Rick has been involved in racing for 20 years with a notable story of going to pick up a chassis in Indiana and ending up working on one of Bobby Allison's race cars while he was there. Right out of high school, Rick began racing but after driving for three years he ran out of money. Fast forward 10 years and Rick found himself working as crew chief for Larry Burton on the NASCAR Northwest Tour. After five years on the tour, he found his way back home where he eventually began running his local track at Cranbrook in 2000.
Cliff started driving at age 15 in a car that he and Rick built together. Naturally, it was a Street Stock, since other than his stint in the NWT Rick has always been a Street Stock guy and his son wanted to follow in his footsteps.
In 2008, Rick Mitchell captured...
In 2008, Rick Mitchell captured the IMCA Canadian Stock Car Championship while his son Cliff won Rookie of the Year in the same division. Jeri Mitchell
The Mitchells were victims of a track closure when Cranbrook was sold but a move to IMCA Canadian Stock Car division the year before gave them a home although they did have to buy all new cars and equipment. They currently run at three regional tracks the farthest of which requires a 10 and a half hour drive--one way. Couple that with the fact that the payout is a flat amount and you have a race team that really does it for the love of the sport.
"Finish first or finish last you get $80," says Rick. "I love the sport. I'm doing this for my son, too, I'd love to get him the chance to go down south and play with the NASCAR boys."
To that end, Cliff has been pursuing an automotive technology degree and when asked about who builds their engine Rick said, "Well, Cliff built his own but I commandeered it since it would go better than mine."
That engine clearly had an impact in Rick's performance in 2008 as he won the IMCA Canadian Stock Car Division Championship. To put icing on that cake, Cliff won Rookie of the Year in the same division. To accomplish that feat, the father and son duo raced against each other week in and week out.
"He beat me in Lethbridge (Alberta at Bridge County Raceway)," says a proud Rick.
But who's the better driver? "Oh I can't answer that, he's sitting right here," says Rick. When asked the same question, Cliff was quick to give Dad the props. "He's probably the better driver, but we're usually pretty close at the end of the day."
So what do these two guys think about winning a pair of championships? "Awesome--that's about it," says Rick. "It was a really touching moment. To win the championship was the greatest thing in the world and to have him up there getting the rookie trophy, what else can you ask for?"
Cliff's echoes his Dad's comments, "It means so much; it was an emotional day when we found out all of that. It meant a lot. There were a few other guys in the rookie chase with me and I think I beat the other guy by about 35 points. Two Canadian titles in the same household, it's just awesome." Awesome indeed. Neither Rick nor Cliff knew they had won their respective championships until the end of the last race of the season.
The Future In each account of our Street Stock racers we found not only the common thread of hard work, dedication, and racing within a restrictive budget but we also found that aunts, uncles, girlfriends, and entire families make up the traditional Street Stock racer's team. It truly is the backbone of the sport.