OCALA, Fla. — Strong finishes lead to strong beginnings in the case of Chase Stockon.
After finishing last season with two AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series victories in the final four races, the 29-year-old Indiana racer has carried the momentum gracefully into the new year, winning Thursday night’s season opener as part of Winter Dirt Games IX at Bubba Raceway Park.
When the proverbial ball gets rolling downhill, the last thing you’d think you want to do is change it up, but Stockon felt he had to stay ahead of the game rather than play it safe and stand pat.
Now what’s old is new and what’s new is working splendidly for Stockon and his No. 32 TBI Racing/Superior Tank & Trailer – Angle Buildings/DRC/Fisher Chevy team.
“A lot is different from last year,” Stockon said. “We struggled so badly through the middle part of last year, we went through everything. We went through old notes and found something we thought we were missing out on. We went back to our shock setup that we ran five or six years ago and that seemed to work really well for us. It seems like the tires have been changing for us a little bit. We were pretty quick out of the gate when we switched to this tire. Again, we went back to our old notes on those and stuck with it.”
“We ended this thing last year with two wins and, throughout the offseason, we knew we didn’t want to change a dang thing,” Stockon added. “Joe (Devin) from DRC built us two new cars and they’re just as good as the one we ended last season with. Whenever you get things rolling and you’ve got a car you like, you don’t want to get rid of it, but it was time to start fresh and I think we’ve got good pieces this year.”
At the drop of the green, Stockon raced around the outside of pole sitter Dave Darland to take the early advantage, as a mad scramble ensued for the runner-up position between Darland and second row starters Carson Short and Justin Grant.
Seven cautions disrupted the first half of the 30-lapper and hindered Darland’s approach to the front. Patience was a virtue the veteran, who on multiple occasions in the early going appeared he had the chops to become the eventual winner as he relentlessly hounded Stockon, getting within a whisker of Stockon when the caution flew for a pair of spins on laps eight and 11.
When racing ultimately resumed, Darland’s impressive bid for his first series win since 2016 came to an abrupt conclusion when his car slowed suddenly exiting turn two on lap 13 to bring out the yellow flag. Darland would not restart.
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