The Frontstretch: Last In and First Out: The Joy And Sadness Of NASCAR Qualifying For The Underdogs by Mike Neff -- Saturday May 17, 2008

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The sport of racing holds a lot of compelling stories about different people. Some have had great success, some have had great failure, some are trying to get a break and some are just doing whatever it takes to get by. The Truck race Friday evening encapsulated the desire, success and failure of a couple of drivers who are just looking for the chance to make a living driving race cars. Nick Tucker was the last car sent home when qualifying completed, and Brian Sockwell was the last car in the field on speed.

Tucker grew up in Bremerton, Washington. He started racing when he was five years old running flat track four-wheelers. He moved up to go-karts and bigger vehicles, but at the age of 14 he wanted to run late models. The sanctioning body in Washington would not allow 14 year-olds to run late models, so he decided to pack his bags and move to the Charlotte area and chase his dream. After moving to North Carolina he established the track record at Hickory Motorspeedway. He also had feature wins at Hickory and Concord and has scored a top ten in ARCA.

Tucker had a very interesting route to the ARCA race in Rockingham. He had a late model chassis sitting in his shop, and heard about the racing coming back to the Rock, and the open test they were going to have. He built a car to ARCA specs and went to the first test session. He was the fastest car in that session. It caught the attention of Cunningham Motorsports, and they gave him the funding and sponsorship to run the first race back at the Rock. Tucker stayed out of trouble and was able to finish 16th.

Tucker’s ride at Charlotte is a bit of a family affair. Derrick Cope is starting up a Truck team and is just trying to make some races to get things off the ground. It just so happens that Cope is Tucker’s second cousin. So the two of them are working together to help each other advance their agendas.

Tucker works for Evernham Motorsports running their chassis dyno to make ends meet. Evernham helps him out with odds and ends and anything that can help him out. He’s currently planning on trying to run four or five more ARCA races and several Truck races.

Sockwell grew up in the Greensboro, NC area. He started racing go-karts when he was seven years old. Then he ran three and four-wheelers, moved back to go-karts and then ran legends cars. He then ran the Goody’s Dash series and finished second in points. He has also run All-Pro and Hooters Pro Cup events. For the most part, over the last few years he’s been funding everything himself and has only run one or two races per year for the last three years.

His truck ride is a collaborative effort with Jerry Reary. Reary owns the truck while Sockwell owns the hauler and equipment. They met each other a few years ago when Reary asked Sockwell to go to Rockingham and help him run his Busch car. Reary totaled his Busch car that weekend and decided to put Sockwell in the car after that. They raced Nazareth, Richmond and Charlotte. They are hoping to run the Busch car a few more times this year.

Sockwell works as an electrical worker in Greensboro for the Lowdermilk Electric Company. It is a company that was founded by his grandfather years ago. Sculley Boatbuilders helps out with sponsorship if Sockwell makes the races, which has been tough of late with the team missing Daytona this year and a couple of the races they tried to make last year.

Two drivers who are doing whatever it takes to try and make it in the sport that is their passion. Tucker went home without racing because their car just wasn’t handling well enough for him to keep his foot on the floor all of the way around the track. Sockwell persevered in the race and stayed out of trouble, ultimately coming home 29th and putting another 137 laps of racing on his resume. The author of this column had a small hand in that success, but that is a story for later.

If anyone reading this would like to help out these young, hopeful drivers, please contact them through their teams’ websites: derrikecope.com or rearyracing.com.

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