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Chase Stockon wheelstands at Tri-State Speedway. (Dave Nearpass photo)

Ironman Stockon Still Hunting A USAC Championship

Tri-State Speedway again played a role in Stockon’s success, as he clinched the title with a September Haubstadt Hustler win one month before the season ended. Participation in the series has meant a lot to Stockon.

“It’s no slouch of a series and it kind of reminds me of back in the day when there was the King of Indiana Sprint Serie,” he noted. “Those guys race you hard. You got 10 or 12 guys that can win on any given night.”

Team manager Kent Schmidt is also a fan of the series, but for another reason.

“We like supporting Tommy Helfrich and his series here because that’s a local track we call home. They keep non-wing sprint racing alive on the local level,” tipped Schmidt.

Stockon has a long history with the Midwest Sprint Car Series. The 2003 MSCS Rookie of the Year ranks fourth on the series’ all-time win list. He earned his first career feature wins with the group in 2004 at Salem’s Thunder Valley Raceway, and then the next weekend at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway.

“It seems like when I have one of my first wins I always back it up with another,” said Stockon. “Our first USAC win was 2012 at Lawrenceburg and we backed it up the following week at Terre Haute.”

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Chase Stockon celebrates winning the 2020 Indiana Sprint Week. (Dave Nearpass photo)

Before that Terre Haute win, Stockon recalled how rattled he was the first time he ever sat in a sprint car, as it was at the historic half-mile track.

“I came in from hot laps and I told my dad, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this or not.’ It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. By the end of the night, I started to get the hang of it and passed a few cars,” he said.

Since then, Stockon has taken a lot of hardware out of Terre Haute. He is one of only two drivers to win all three of the track’s marquee events: the Jim Hurtubise Classic in 2012, the Don Smith Classic in 2016, and most recently the Tony Hulman Classic in 2019.

He considers the Don Smith Classic his most treasured win, as Smith was a long-time supporter of his and his father’s early racing efforts.

“He’s been on the side of our race car until he quit sponsoring race cars,” related Stockon. “Don Smith had a lot to do with the race track there and the community. Anytime they name a race after somebody it’s definitely an honor to win it, but somebody like Don, it’s extra special.”

Reviewing the statistics from his 2020 USAC campaign, it was typical Stockon: 27 starts with 23 top-10 runs, including two wins. His name continues to move up the rankings in USAC’s AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series record book.

Wins at Putnamville and Bloomington elevated him into 41st place alongside Billy Cassella, Bruce Walkup, and Lee Kunzman in career wins, and alongside A.J. Foyt, Steve Butler, and Tracy Hines as drivers with at least one feature win over nine consecutive seasons.

However, what may be Stockon’s most impressive achievement spans from 2012 through the end of the 2020 season, when USAC’s Ironman secured 321 consecutive feature starts, an all-time series record.

Stockon is humble about his accomplishments and acknowledged his parents and others who have contributed to his campaigns.

“It’s one of those things that’s a ‘pinch me’ situation. I don’t think I’m even worthy to be alongside some of those names. I hold the banner that has my name alongside those guys, but it wouldn’t be possible without guys like D.J. that help me along the way.”

Stockon’s father, also a racer, was a help in his early career, as was his late mother. “My dad obviously had the experience and that just kind of made things easier. Mom always pushed us to do the best with what we had and be the best we could be.”

It wasn’t too many years ago that Stockon’s wife Breanne could be seen in the pits, carrying a toddler while scraping mud or adjusting a bleeder valve on her husband’s sprint car.

“That sounds about right,” a smiling Breanne admitted.

However, at first it wasn’t easy for Breanne to be accepted as part of the crew.

The Stockon family had a strict “no girlfriends at the race track” policy. It was only after Chase’s father hurt his back that Breanne was allowed to attend the races and soon found herself “pumping fuel and putting it in the car and changing tires.”

“He would crash and I’d take the rear end out the next morning,” she continued. “It just sort of snowballed, really.”

With a degree in Mechanical Engineering, “working on things” was easy for her. Once she and Chase were married, when eldest son Parker came onboard, the routine didn’t change.

“They came up with these really neat baby carriers, so you put your kid on you and you keep doing whatever you’re doing,” she laughed.

When other members of the crew couldn’t get off work for longer race trips, “the three of us would get in the truck and head out. We’ve been lucky in that if we get into too many tangles there’s always somebody back there [in the pits] willing to help, even if it’s the guy that sells Hoosier tires.”

When asked how she balanced work, a family, and racing, she answered, “I think you just manage. There’s nothing that’s ever too much. You know you don’t quit, we never quit, obviously. It was just part of it.”

Today, you might expect to find Parker Stockon, age eight, and Spencer Stockon, age five, turning laps in a quarter-midget or kart on a track cut out in their backyard.

“There is a dirt track back there,” said Chase, “but for dirt bikes. It’s got jumps and stuff like that and right now they have no interest in circle track racing. Half the time they don’t even like to go to the races, but when it comes to dirt bikes, that’s their thing.”

Breanne’s nephew was the one who introduced the boys to dirt bikes. Spencer just started running the bikes last fall, while Parker finished second in the final point standings of the Southern Indiana Grand Prix Series.

Chase isn’t disappointed in their direction. Instead, he reflects on when he was that age and showing an interest in following his father and grandfather into racing sprint cars.

“It was something I showed interest in, so [my parents] pursued it,” he noted.

Chase points out that there are a lot of drivers who got their start racing dirt bikes, including his mentor, former USAC champion Tracy Hines, and current World of Outlaws frontrunner Sheldon Haudenschild.

With Chase’s first quarter-midget stored in his shop, there still might be another Stockon racing on four wheels.

“We’re not ready to change gears yet,” admitted Breanne. “We’re just more focused on Chase’s career at this time.”

Where were the Stockons the morning of the 2020 Indiana Sprint Week finale? Attending the boys’ dirt bike race just up the highway from Haubstadt.

Chase conceded, “That’s what they’re into right now, so we’ll pursue it. If they want to change and do something else later, we’ll do that too.”

With high expectations, Stockon is back with KO Motorsports this year, behind the wheel of their newest Velocity chassis. So far, the early season has been a rerun of last year’s early frustrations, including the end of Stockon’s record streak of consecutive starts (which stands at 324) when he missed the April USAC feature at Bloomington.

With mixed emotions and knowing that the streak would end, rather than taking a provisional, the team elected to load up and go back to the shop and put together last year’s Velocity.

Stockon reflected on both the record and the team’s situation.

“Of course it was in our minds. At the same token you kind of have to stop the bleeding, per se,” he said. “We really haven’t been happy with that race car all year, so we just made the decision to load up and head back to the shop and get started on tearing that car down and putting last year’s together. I guess [going back to the] old car meant we were looking for the old results.

“It’s been a good, long streak and if it gets beaten in a handful of years, kudos to the guy that does. We’re appreciative and we know how much hard work it takes to get to an accomplishment like that.”

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DAVE NEARPASS PHOTO

The old car did produce the old results the next night at Tri-State Speedway. Stockon led the feature for the opening five laps and ended up with a third-place finish. Consistent finishes during USAC’s spring Pennsylvania tour the next week helped move him back into the points race.

Compared to the careers of, say, Dave Darland or Bobby Kinser, at 33 years of age Stockon is still in his prime. A couple of items on his bucket list are obvious: defend that Indiana Sprint Week crown and win a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series championship.

Another, less obvious, item: win a USAC feature at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Stockon has won a Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series feature at the oval, but feels the iconic Ohio track owes him a USAC feature win.

“We’ve been close a handful of times and one night we actually should have won,” Stockon recalled.

Stockon is referring to a 2014 USAC race when, while leading the feature, the right front torsion stop fell off and the arm chewed into the hub. He continued to run the car as it was and ended up second to Dave Darland.

“You know, that’s just one of those things. I want to win a USAC race there. That would be pretty special to do … and obviously a USAC title,” he added.

Stockon is grateful for the career he has put together over the years.

“I never dreamed that we’d be able to accomplish as much as we have. If I don’t win another race or don’t win a title between now and the time I quit racing, so be it,” said Stockon. “We’ve had a lot of fun over the years together, you know, all the group of guys, my wife, kids, everybody that’s been involved in the career I get to take credit for.”

It’s a safe bet that the No. 5s Hutson John Deere-sponsored car will have Stockon behind the wheel for many more races and wins.

In fact, it’d be appropriate for the Black Sabbath heavy metal classic Iron Man to be played over the PA system the next time he’s on top of that roll cage with the checkers, confetti flying and camera flashes going off. It’s bound to happen.

After all, Nothing Runs Like a Deere.End Bug

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