INDIANAPOLIS – Chase Stockon’s season featured one memorable milestone on the race track, but USAC officials surprised him with an equally-special off-track moment during the season-ending awards banquet.
Stockon, from Fort Branch, Ind., was honored Friday as the 2019 recipient of USAC’s Jason Leffler Award, given to a driver showing appreciation of the sport’s history through their professionalism and representation as an ambassador of the United States Auto Club.
The driver of the No. 32 TBI Racing/Superior Tank & Trailer DRC-Fisher Chevy sprint car set the consecutive starts record for the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series mid-season, but was caught off-guard with Friday night’s unexpected honor.
“I told my wife, you know, not to sound selfish, but I listened to some of the awards and what they mean and everything, and just thought of how I didn’t really fit any of them,” Stockon told Sprint Car & Midget. “Then I was looking through the program the other night, and they had a couple other things marked as special awards, so I figured that must be what they wanted me there for, you know, for the most consecutive starts or something.
“It definitely caught me off guard, for sure, but I think it’s one that’s pretty fitting for myself anyway.”
While Stockon never got the chance to compete against Leffler directly before the three-time USAC National Midget Series and 1998 USAC Silver Crown Series champion’s untimely passing, he’s still extremely familiar with Leffler’s far-reaching impact on motorsports.
“Jason was pretty much out of the sprint car stuff before I even got into it,” Stockon recalled. “And then obviously, when he passed away, he was running winged stuff … so I never got the opportunity to race with him. There was kind of that little age gap there that nipped that chance. But he was always somebody I looked up to. Even as badass as he was in midgets, sprint cars and just USAC competition period, when he went and raced NASCAR and stuff like that, he continued to give back.
“He helped Damion Gardner there for a few years, Bud Kaeding, and others like that. So as far as the history of Jason on the USAC side of things, I was pretty familiar with what he did and what he still continued to do with the sport,” he continued. “That’s another reason why I’m honored to even be considered for that award, because to be put in that category alongside him speaks volumes.”
Stockon equaled former USAC champion and recently-promoted USAC Executive Vice President Levi Jones’ mark of 284 straight starts at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in August, then reset the bar during the Jim Hurtubise Classic on Sept. 13 at Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track, his home racing facility.
It was a passing of the torch that the duo has since shared several laughs about as Stockon has continued his Ironman run through the end of the season.
“Levi and I actually joked earlier in the year about some things, like how he was on the back end of his career whenever he and I really got to racing with each other hot and heavy,” Stockon said. “Along the way, we always respected each other, but we had a couple run-ins and stuff like that … which is almost to be expected sometimes. But ever since Levi took his position there at USAC, it’s been nothing but fantastic and he’s really fun to work with and communicate with. There’s no BS where he’s concerned.
“Ever since the late 90s and early 2000s when he was running, Levi was another one of those drivers I really looked up to; he’s even halfway from the same area, not too far from Sullivan, Ind., where I grew up,” noted Stockon. “To have surpassed his record earlier this year is something that already made this year meaningful, but to add the Jason Leffler Award to that is more than I could have ever expected.”
With signature wins under his belt in Terre Haute Action Track’s three signature sprint car races – the Jim Hurtubise Classic, Tony Hulman Classic and Don Smith Classic – as well as the Jesse Hockett Classic in Pennsylvania, Stockon has already amassed a solid resume for himself, despite having yet to reach the top step of the USAC National Sprint Car standings.
But in Stockon’s own view, he’s okay with that if his career wound up at this point. He feels comfortable with his current legacy even as he looks forward to the days still to come.
“I mean, a championship is our ultimate goal, but if we don’t ever get that championship, then I guess we don’t. I think I’d still be pretty comfortable with that,” Stockon explained. “We’ve got 12 USAC National Sprint Car wins, and a lot of the guys who have more are from close to the same area as I am.
“The way I look at it is this: if we only have 12, at least a lot of the wins we do have are pretty dang special. That’s a point of pride for this team and we’re looking forward to the chapters to come.”