(Stafford Springs, CT)—In only 2 short years, Newtown native Stephen Kopcik has gone from Legend Cars competitor to SK Light Modified champion at Stafford Speedway. Much like Rowan Pennink, Kopcik had a rough start to his rookie campaign last season, but things started to click for Kopcik and the #31 Hocon Industrial Gas / N.J.K. Automotive team towards the end of 2014 with the team scoring their first two wins and that level of performance carried over to the 2015 season.
Kopcik showed that he and the #31 team had the speed to be championship contenders through the first several races of the season, but getting caught up in several wrecks early on left them chasing D.J. Burnham in the standings for much of the first half of the season. Following the June 12th feature event, Kopcik was 54 points out of the lead. But a series of top-5 finishes sandwiched around a 22nd place finish on July 3rd allowed Kopcik to slowly cut into that deficit and with 11 straight top-5 finishes to close out the season, Kopcik won the championship by a 20 point margin over Burnham.
“This is unbelievable, not only for me, but the whole crew, to see all the hard work that they put in pay off is awesome,” said Kopcik. “I can’t thank Hocon Industrial Gas enough, N.J.K. Automotive, Newtown Pools, David Smith Racing, Tony Alteri for the awesome power, T/A Engines, CD Chassis, Mike Paquette, and everyone who helped out, Archie, Sean, Luke, Duke, Nick, my Grandpa Joe, David Smith, and the whole Gervais crew. If it wasn’t for them we probably wouldn’t be standing here. I think coming into the year we were definitely thinking we could be contenders for the championship. We got caught up in a couple of stupid wrecks around halfway through the year and it was looking like we were out for a while. But the next thing you know, we were leading. I remember one night we went into the race trailing D.J. by 24 points and the next thing you know I was 20-something points ahead of him. That’s why even when we were leading we never got ahead of ourselves and thought we had it because you never do.”
NAPA Victory Lane in the SK Light division was dominated by Joey Ferrigno, Tony Membrino, Jr., Burnham, Payton Henry, Daniel Wesson, who between them combined to win 18 of the 22 races this season. While Kopcik was disappointed to only win one race, he let it all hang out in the NAPA Fall Final feature, making some daring and decisive moves to get up front and then race side by side with Membrino for the win while at the same time trying to have a good enough finish to clinch the championship.
“When the green flag dropped, the whole top row was moving and I had such a good car so I said I’m going for it,” said Kopcik. “I was making some daring moves because the car was that good and in the moment, I wasn’t sure what I wanted more, the win or the championship. It was fun racing with Tony Membrino and 90% of the guys are fun to race with, it made it a great season. There was a caution around lap-11 and we were sitting right in the right spot. Next thing I know, we were racing Tony [Membrino] on the outside for the win. He got a better run coming out of turn 4 but I was giving it everything I had. One win was kind of rough but I feel like there were a lot of races where things just didn’t go our way whether it was a call or the way we were lined up and what row was moving. We definitely would have liked to get a couple more wins but the championship is still pretty damn good.”
Now that Kopcik has won the SK Light championship, he has plans to make the move up the modified ladder into Stafford’s premier SK Modified® division for the 2015 season.
“We’re going to move up to the SK Modified® division full time next year,” said Kopcik. “We bought a Pettit motor a couple of weeks ago and we’re going to go to Thompson to shake the car down. I’m really looking forward to next season in the SK Modified® division. Rookie of the Year will be our goal and it would be nice if we could get a top-5 finish or two. I know it’s a lot harder competition and a whole different level, but we’re proud of what we accomplished this season and we’re going to try our hardest to do it again next season.”
For the season, Kopcik posted 1 win, 18 top-5, and 19 top-10 finishes in 22 starts. Kopcik will officially be recognized as the 2015 SK Light Modified champion at the 46th Annual Stafford Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony to be held on Friday, November 20 at Maneeley’s in South Windsor.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.