(Stafford Springs, CT)—After racing Legend Cars at Stafford Speedway in 2015, Springfield, MA native Michael Hopkins sold his car and decided to make the move into Stafford’s DARE Stock division for the 2016 season. Hopkins showed that moving from a small lightweight car into a heavy and full-bodied stock car wasn’t too much of a challenge to overcome as he finished each of his 12 starts in the top-8 to go along with his first ever victory at Stafford on Aug. 26.
“Overall I’d give us an A+ for the season, it would be really hard to give ourselves a grade other than that,” said Hopkins. “We learned a ton and we got a win and you can’t really ask for much more than that. The car was in one piece every week, we raced pretty clean and I think we gained a lot of respect from our fellow competitors while raising some eyebrows also, which was pretty neat for us. We were in the top-10 in all of our starts. At the beginning of the year winning Rookie of the Year wasn’t our main focus and then once we got going I’m glad we had the opportunity to become Rookie of the Year. I’m really proud of everyone on the team on this accomplishment.”
Not only did Hopkins have the challenge of moving from a Legend Car to a DARE Stock but with his intermittent schedule, he spent a lot of his starts having to race from the back of the pack, which he says was great for his learning experience this season.
“Starting in the back was a really good learning experience for us to see and understand how good the car was compared to everyone else’s car and I was able to learn patience,” said Hopkins. “We learned every week how to get the car faster and I think the biggest challenge for us was what to do week to week to make the car faster. Then once we got the win, it became how to stay consistent. After we won, we said “we have to win again’ but we didn’t win another race. It was a real balance between realizing we had a good week by finishing fourth or fifth and not putting too much extra pressure on ourselves to win.”
“Winning meant so much to me because I grew up at Stafford with my Dad being the starter and my Mom was a scorer for Richie Evans so with my family history at the track I never thought being in victory lane as a driver was something that I could accomplish,” said Hopkins. “I had been to victory lane plenty of times as a crew member so winning that race was extra special. To have Mark [Arute] congratulate me in victory lane and then to have my family coming out to victory lane and everyone was so excited, it was a really special moment.”
With R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year honors behind him, Hopkins is ready to get back at it in 2017 and try to win more races in the DARE Stock division. For winning the 2016 R.A.D. Automachine DARE Stock Rookie of the Year Award, Hopkins will take home a $500 bonus from R.A.D. Automachine.
“We have the car up on jack stands now and we’re going to go through it and have Bob Fill take a look at the chassis and we’re going to redo the body,” said Hopkins. “We have a couple more sponsors that are looking to come on board with us and we’re going to put a wrap on the car, so it should look great on the track. I really have to thank my crew chief Jay Lafayette, Hannah, Paige, Steve, Tudor House Liquores, O’Sullivan and Sons, and a big thanks to my family for their support. And I have to give a big thanks to Donnie from R.A.D. Automachine for putting up the bonus, that’s awesome.”
Hopkins will officially be crowned as the 2016 R.A.D. Automachine DARE Stock Rookie of the Year at the 47th Annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 18 at Maneeley’s in South Windsor.
Tickets to the 47th Annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony are $48 per person and can be ordered by calling the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at (860) 684-2783, or by downloading an order form from www.staffordspeedway.com and returning the form to the track office.