JC Stout is from Castile, N.Y., and he dreams of being a NASCAR Cup Series driver. Of course, that’s something thousands of short-track drivers coming through the ranks will tell you… if they’re not already down in Charlotte.
But Stout isn’t just dreaming… he’s working towards his goal. And he’s doing it a little bit differently than you might expect.
Instead of moving to North Carolina, the 25-year-old is trying to build his organization from the racing hotbed of… western New York? That’s right; while taking the occasional start-and-park deal for a handful of teams in NASCAR’s top-three series, Stout is keeping his heart and soul up north – building his Stellar-Quest Racing team with his close friends and own money (or more accurately, his parents’ money).
But while he might not have the money to compete with the Roush and Hendricks of the world, Stout’s talent has already put him in a position to race with NASCAR’s best. Having started racing go-karts at the age of 11, Stout won multiple track championships before moving into Super Trucks four years later. Experiencing immediate success, he won a track championship in Trucks – which are a late model with a truck body – at age 15, the youngest age ever in New York for a local track champion. When he turned 18, Stout ran late model stock cars all over western New York and Pennsylvania, winning seven races while leaving dozens of impressed drivers and car owners in his wake.
At 19, Stout qualified for the Craftsman Truck race at Martinsville and finished 31st. That same year (2002), he also qualified for his second Truck race at Milwaukee and finished 19th with the same Stellar-Quest racing team he’s building now. Since 2003, Stout has competed in a handful of races in the Truck Series most every year, using what limited sponsorship money he can drum up to run the full distance with his family-owned effort. Slowly but surely, that hard work is leading to extra opportunities to showcase his driving talent. In 2008, Stout made his Nationwide series debut at Dover, also competing at Loudon and Milwaukee that year with Johnny Davis Motorsports in a start-and-park situation. This season, he has competed at California and Texas with JDM before running the distance in this weekend’s race at Charlotte.
That last race was quite an accomplishment in itself, considering Stout’s latest start was from the effort he’s been putting together himself back in western New York. His self-owned team, with its 2007 Nationwide Series Chevy, is going to attempt four other races this season as they officially move up from the Truck level: Kentucky, Chicago, Michigan and the fall race in Charlotte.
Stout purchased his Nationwide car from Rusty Wallace this past January. While two years old, the car was race ready, for the most part, with only some minor modifications that needed to be made before dragging it down to Lowe’s Motor Speedway. But any and all changes were accomplished far from racing’s hotbed, at Stout’s own shop in Castile, N.Y. The people who work on his car are all volunteers, local guys from the Castile area who love racing as much as Stout and are interested in trying to help him realize his dream.
The trip from New York was grassroots racing at its best; an 11-hour drive in a small hauler with one racecar, some spare parts and a truckload of men driven by passion and not the almighty dollar. With 51 cars on the entry list, odds were long for immediate success in the series; but Stout’s driving proved Stout enough for their car to make the show. The No. 19 ended up 31st on the grid, earning a spot while fully-funded cars packed up and went home. It was an underdog story to write home about, with the team knowing that if everything broke their way, they’d have a chance to finish in the top half of the field.
Unfortunately, a top 20 or even a top 25 wasn’t in the cards for Stellar-Quest Saturday night. Slightly after the drop of the green, Stout slipped slightly backwards because the car was simply too loose. By lap 10, the No. 19 was in 34th place and fell to 36th by lap 20. During the caution flag stop on lap 23, the team pulled a spring rubber out of the right rear to try and tighten the car up. They restarted the race in 33rd position on lap 29, still hoping the right setup would simply fall into place.
It never did. By lap 40, Stout’s Chevy had dropped to 36th, and he was lapped just nine circuits later. They were in 37th, one lap down until their next pit stop on lap 70. With a volunteer pit crew doing the best they could, an early stop still cost them a total of three more laps under green – Stout wound up rejoining the race in 37th, four laps off the pace. There was another caution flag on lap 90, and during the pit stop on lap 92 the team made wholesale changes to the car to try and tighten it up. They went up three rounds on the track bar and closed the left rear shock three clicks. When the race went back to green on lap 94, they were optimistic the car would improve. But on lap 102, Stout brushed the wall with the right side of the car and ended up getting a flat right-front tire on lap 104. He came in and the hood went up to try and beat out the right-front fender – with that, they put on two tires and resumed the fight, the race now becoming a matter of simple survival.
Unfortunately for them, the damage was already done. Stout came back in the pits after a rub on the right front tire refused to go away. They attempted to clear the sheet metal more and sent him back out; but at that point, he was nine laps down and struggling to keep up the pace. The No. 19 finally went behind the wall on lap 127 due to the problem. It turns out the bolt on the sway bar arm mount was rubbing the tire because the toe in had been compromised when he made contact with the wall.
But the team didn’t come here to park… unlike other organizations in the series, they were dedicated to completing the entire 300-mile distance. While sitting inside the garage, they adjusted the toe in to clear the tire and sent Stout back out. By this point, he was now 25 laps down but still turning laps and gaining valuable experience. Once he was back on the track, Stout began running faster lap times and began to pass some of the cars he was racing with.
Another caution flew on lap 151 and the team pitted again on lap 154. They put on four tires and went up another round on the track bar. The race restarted on lap 159 with the car 27 laps down… but more competitive than ever. By the time the final caution came for rain, Stout was running with the people around him and showing the improvement you’d want to see from a guy still learning the ropes at one of NASCAR’s top levels.
Looking back, it was a successful weekend for Stellar-Quest from the perspective they went home with a car in one piece and 170 laps of experience under their belts. The all-volunteer crew agreed it was a great trip to Charlotte… and they can’t wait for their next race.
For them, racing is fueled by a dream that will never die.
Writer’s Note: Stout was sponsored by his father’s insurance agency, Sewer Specialty Services, Fastenal, AGR Performance Power Steering, Stars and Stripes Tool, Otis’ Collision, WCJW AM radio, Wind Tamer and American Classic Outfitters for Charlotte. If you’d like to read more about JC, his team and his efforts, Stellar-Quest Racing has set up a website at www.jcstout.com.