by Rick Guyer
7 Dollars passing 7 Million
On March 17, 2009 David Poole of the Charlotte Observer wrote one of his last stories “For the Love of Racing” shortly before his untimely passing. Although David covered the NASCAR scene in the heart of NASCAR country, this article was distinctly different than his usual eloquent examination of the top tiers of the sport. It was a story of the little guy, “living the dream” as is often said in the sport, and his efforts to succeed and survive in a domain dominated by big names and big money.
It’s 2010 and the story continues as an example of the dedication by one man to follow his heritage and his dream. Corrie Stott, scion of racing legend Ramo Stott, started his own team, Corrie Stott Racing, in 2007 with a partial ARCA season effort and moved into the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2008. Completely un-funded and finding help wherever and whenever he could, Corrie pursued his dream of being part of a sport he loves and where few would attempt to compete in the most difficult of economic times. With one car and unbridled optimism, with a “new” car purchased before the fall Charlotte race, he was set to qualify his way into the last three races of the 2009 season. After solid practice times at Texas all appeared to be on track until a qualifying crash dashed all hope for the rest of the season.
Many would have seen this as a sign that a small team with no financial backing and virtually no resources should “pack it in” as many stronger based teams did at year’s end. Whether he was obsessed, delusional, or just plain stubborn, Corrie set about building a plan for the 2010 season.
The foundation of this plan had to begin with making the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Through the off season, with no funds to repair his one car from the Texas wreck let alone find and buy a Speedway car, and looking desperately for ANY level of sponsorship, Corrie continued to work single handed and believe that he would be in Daytona and make the race on February 13th.
On January 28th, 13 days before the car had to be in Daytona, Corrie found his answer…maybe. He struck a deal with another veteran driver/owner who had a Speedway car that he would provide if Corrie could get it ready. The less than pristine race car was brought to Corrie’s shop in Denver, NC. On inspection It was determined that 75% of the bars comprising the roll cage were 3/4″ too low for current NASCAR specifications… and that was only the beginning. The car was far from complete, and Corrie wasn’t sure he had enough parts to finish the build, or if it could ever pass the stringent NASCAR technical inspection process. Again most would see the situation as hopeless if not fool hearty, but faith has no boundaries. With the help of Mark Randall, a multi-talented friend, he stripped the car to its bare chassis and body. Mark cut the necessary bars out of the car and relocated them to meet specs. Parts were gathered from the wrecked Texas car and an ARCA car that had been built for an earlier test. The chassis was painted, the body was smoothed and painted by the father of a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and the Phoenix began to rise from the ashes.
Working 20+ hours a day, often alone and well into the night taking time for a shower and a couple of hours sleep, he saw his car, his hopes, his dream begin to take shape. While others watched the Super Bowl, Corrie worked away on his dream and counted the hours until the car must leave for Daytona. Garnering help from Mark, his neighbor Rick, and even a fireman/racing enthusiast who drove from Alabama to help, the impossible looked like it might just become a reality, but time was running out quickly.
Monday morning at 2:00 he and Rick dropped the “bullet” under the hood, but there was so much left to be finished. Pressing on into Monday which seamlessly became Tuesday, it was apparent that the car could not make the 5:00 PM NASCAR deadline for parking the hauler at Daytona. A call to NASCAR officials garnered a “reprieve” of sorts. If the hauler was at the garage gate in Daytona by 5:30 AM Wednesday Corrie would be allowed to park and participate. 5:31 and it would be over!
Corrie was in constant communication with his friend and driver Andy Ponstein who had qualified Corrie’s cars in numerous Nationwide races through 2008 and 2009. Andy was working desperately from his home in Jenison, MI to gather any kind of sponsorship support just to cover the cost of fuel to get the hauler to the track. Andy was sure that he had a partial sponsor on board, but couldn’t guarantee when funds would be available. Believing that he was “cleared” for the Daytona race Andy was preparing to head for Florida when he got a call advising him that NASCAR was not going to clear him for Daytona because he had not finished enough races in 2009.
At 7:00 PM, working through total exhaustion, Corrie and his faithful helpers were nearing their goal. The hauler driver was on his way to load and head south. And then it hit. Andy called and the funds wouldn’t be available in time to cover fuel costs, team licenses, tires for practice or the mandatory shock purchase required to get started.
7:05 Pm, Corrie called his two helpers together, pulled out a marker and wrote on the shop white board…Corrie Stott Racing – Time of death 7:05 – 2/9/10. He told them that despite their valiant efforts there was no money to get to Daytona. Mark produced a 12 pack of beer from his truck, and the three drank to one hell of a try.
As the hauler driver arrived, the phone rang again. It was Andy and he assured Corrie that the funds would be deposited sometime Wednesday. If Corrie could only figure out how to get to the track it would work out. “Neighbor Rick” said he would advance the fuel costs, etc. if they could make it to the track. After a 40 minute “break” everybody attacked the car again knowing that they had to be loaded and rolling south within an hour to have any chance of making the NASCAR deadline. 58 minutes later the hauler was on the road. After a quick trip home, a quick shower and grabbing their bags the 3 began their own overnight sprint to Daytona. There was only one major problem… they did not have a driver!
As they drove into South Carolina Mark had an idea. Danny Efland! Danny had driven a Camping World truck for Corrie twice in 2009! Danny lived in Columbia, SC! Danny was cleared for Daytona! Making the call, Corrie asked Danny what his plans were for the weekend. “Just sitting home watching the races” was his reply. How would you like to drive the Nationwide race Saturday came the question. After a brief pause to make sure he heard correctly, Danny enthusiastically said YES! Can you be ready in an hour? We’ll pick you up on the way and you can drive us to Daytona.
The hauler arrived at the gate at 5:28AM. The crew and Danny arrived at 7:00, get their licenses and were in the garage to begin NASCAR technical inspection by 8:30. They had made it! Now all they needed was to pass tech and get ready to practice.
NASCAR technical inspection is… well… technical. Everything was going well until the officials measured the depth of the floor of the fuel cell well in the back of the car. It measured 3/16″ too low! The fuel cell is encased in a steel shell which is set into the reinforced well in the “trunk” of the car and then bolted in place by a crisscrossed steel rack. NACAR said the only remedy was to cut the well in half, cut 3/16″ out of the wall all the way around and weld it back. Then weld 3/16″ spacers onto the rack to raise it to match. When it was all done, after three hours, the fuel cell is still encased in a steel shell which is still set into the reinforced well in the trunk of the car and then still bolted in place by a crisscrossed steel rack???
They crew finally passed tech inspection and got ready to run – now 38 hours since sleep. Andy showed up, the CarLocate.com and 9 Iron sports drink came on board as sponsors, the decals went on the car and the dream lived on.
It became somewhat anticlimactic after that. The team practiced solidly, then qualifications were rained out, and they were set to start 36th based on prior season points and the qualifying draw done by NASCAR.
Danny drove a solid race, staying on the lead lap, staying out of trouble and skillfully avoiding two Daytona “big ones”. Running 18th on the final lap, 3 cars crashed in front of him. Because the accident happened on the last lap and was behind the leaders, NASCAR did not throw the caution flag. Danny had to check up to avoid the crash, got a tap from behind, spun and flattened all 4 tires. He kept the dream fired up and crossed the finish line 21st!
21st may not sound like much, but to a small group of guys “living’ the dream”, it was a dream come true…
All for the Love of Racing.