(Stafford Springs, CT)—After winning the SK Light championship at Stafford Speedway in 2015, Stephen Kopcik and the #31 Hocon Industrial Gas team made the move up the ladder to Stafford’s SK Modified® division for the 2016 season. With their first podium finish of the season last Friday night, Kopcik and his crew have clinched the 2016 NAPA Auto Parts Rookie of the Year honors for the SK Modified® division, which will be worth a $1,000 store credit bonus from NAPA Auto Parts.
“That’s a pretty nice award,” said Kopcik. “That’s awesome and my dad will be happy with that because we’re always working on things in the shop with the car. It’s an awesome feeling and it’s a heck of an accomplishment for us, I’m proud of all my guys. The first season in any division you want to win Rookie of the Year. I originally thought we were going to have some more competition this season with guys like Nick Salva and D.J. Burnham moving up from SK Lights with us. I know they had some bad luck this season and haven’t run all the races, but it was a pretty strong rookie class we had at the beginning of the year. I have to thank all my sponsors, Hocon Industrial, Newtown Pools, N.J.K. Automotive, David Smith Racing, and Pettit Racing Engines, we couldn’t have done any of this without our sponsors.”
Kopcik and the #31 team started off their rookie campaign strong, posting 2 top-5 finishes in the first 6 races of the season. Since then, they have struggled to regain that form, which Kopcik says was a result of tinkering with the car setup. A return to their old setup has Kopcik back running strong again as the #31 team posted their first podium finish of the season last Friday night. With a comfortable feeling behind the wheel, Kopcik thinks a win is possible in the final three races of the season.
“This season has been really good for us,” said Kopcik. “We tried a bunch of different things that we shouldn’t have tried with the car and we struggled for about 10 races with that. The last 2 races, all we did was put the old setup back in the car and we’ve run pretty well. I wished that we had this old setup in the car for the whole season because I think we could’ve had some better results. Just like our rookie season in SK Lights, we needed a year to figure things out and that’s what this year has been for us. Our first season in SK Lights we didn’t do all that well but we came back the next season and we won the championship. I think we definitely have the car to win a race now that we’re back on our old setup but I don’t want to jinx myself either. We’d be pretty happy with a couple more top-3 or even top-5 runs. Consistency is all we’re looking for because consistency will bring us a win.”
Along with a win, Kopcik hopes to improve his final position in the SK Modified® points standings. Kopcik currently is tied with Michael Gervais, Jr. for 10th place in the standings and he has an eye on already being better than that in 2017.
“I think we’re right about where we expected to be,” said Kopcik. “I thought maybe we’d be a little higher than we are now, like top-6 or top-7 in the points, but we’ve built up a notebook and I’m very thankful that we haven’t really damaged the car at all this season. We’ve only had to change one nerf bar so far this year and that’s pretty good for our first season in the SK Modified® division. Next season we’d like to be a little more consistent than we were this year and see where we end up.”
Kopcik will officially be crowned as the 2016 NAPA Auto Parts Rookie of the Year at the 47th Annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 18 at Maneeley’s Banquet Facility 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.