BOONEVILLE, MS – Last week, Nick Stoop – a regular in the factory stock/modified street division at Crossroads Motorsports Park in Corinth, MS – turned laps at the temporarily dirt-covered Bristol Motor Speedway as part of the stock car division.
To some, he was the punchline of a joke, running at the back of the field, several miles per hour slower than the next car in front of his, much less the frontrunners. But to many more, his story has become an inspiration, and the epitome of why so many of us still love dirt track racing.
The 60-year-old racer built his first racecar with his longtime friend, Ben Miller, in 1986. In 2008, he retired that car and built his current racer out of a 1982 Cutlass:
“I don’t reckon [to have a nickname]. People have called me a thing or two at the track, but not really a nickname. My car is named Mississippi Queen. I’m an old-time rock and roller. My first car was named Slow Ride.
“My longtime friend, Ben Miller, asked for help working on a car. The first night at the track, I chickened out, and he made me get in and race.”
Nick is part of the Xtreme Racing team, a family-oriented group of racers that include teammates Chris Bryan, Brock Grisham, Jonathan Warnicke, and Austin Holder. All of the cars in the Xtreme Racing stable have an “X” at the end of their numbers: 1X, 12X, 13X, 21X, and Nick’s 74X.
The Xtreme Racing team’s Facebook page explains the importance of the “X”:
“This comes from the team’s name and is a tribute to a very important member of the team that is no longer with us, Ed Stearns. Ed was the crew chief until 2016 when he passed away, leaving John Warnicke in charge. The late Ed Stearns and Kenny Wheeler play a major role in Xtreme Racing and the family orientation of the team.”
Mississippi Queen has a number of features that made her stand out in the crowded field at Bristol last week, not the least of which is the grim reaper painted onto the hood. His daughter, Toni, hand-painted the design – which Nick has named Clyde – and it has now become an integral part of his car.
Family is a big part of the Xtreme Racing team. From its Facebook page:
“On most Saturday nights you will find Nick, his team, and his children, Sam, Genna, and Toni, at a local track. In a place like north Mississippi, everyone knows everyone. Nick is known by his fellow racers as ‘The Tank.’ That Cutlass is indestructible! Nick is known by his fans as the nice guy. He’s the guy that brings homemade ice cream for the kids during intermission and lets them all ride in his car to pack the track.”
Like a lot of racers who went to Bristol last week, racing on the famed NASCAR track was a dream come true for Nick. But, he had to have a lot of help just to get there. He had to borrow a truck, a trailer, a four-wheeler, and safety equipment from his teammate Bryan. He was joined on the trip north by Warnicke, who raced his 602 late model at the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals.
He went in knowing he wouldn’t win, and knowing he didn’t have the race resume – despite four feature wins and a track championship to his credit – that those in the hunt for the championship have. As a matter of fact, just racing weekly at Crossroads Motorsports Park and North Alabama Speedway is difficult enough:
“[The biggest challenge] usually is just making it to the track – working and trying to make it happen. I work hard and have help from friends and family, and we make it happen.
“I was just there to make laps, just to say I’d been on Bristol dirt. If they would’ve told me to load up after practice, I still would’ve left a happy man.”
And that’s exactly what he did: he turned laps, he stayed out of everyone else’s way, and at the end of the very long week of racing, he came back home with Mississippi Queen in one piece. Click HERE to see video of his car in action around the high-banked half-mile.
Through attrition, Nick wound up finishing 16th in his stock car last-chance qualifier race. But his story quickly went viral, and it got the attention of some very important people in the racing community. This week, Bullet Chassis announced they were giving Nick a new racing chassis, while Lizard Lit Pit Lights is working to make sure he has a well-lit working area in the pits the rest of this season.
Others have asked how they can donate to Nick’s racing program, prompting Xtreme Racing to set up a PayPal account to receive those donations. A shirts and merchandise website is coming soon, as well. Nick says becoming “Internet famous” has been a shock for him:
“I was just hoping to get ’er to Bristol and get home. I had the slowest, ugliest car out there. I’m overwhelmed and in awe. I wish some of my friends were still here to see it.”
Nick says he just loves racing and turning laps at Bristol was the happiest moment of his racing career. And while he’s raced a 602 late model once before – nearly wrecking it while trying to get it back on the trailer afterward – he has no plans to change what he’s racing:
“I’ve been able to pay for everything myself and have had as much fun as the late model boys. I really like the people I race with. They’re like family and will help you any way they can, but they race you hard.
“I’m just a hometown boy. I always try to help others. I’ve always told my kids, ‘If you will treat people how you want to be treated, the world will be a better place.’ And I try to do that most of the time.”
For the rest of this season, his goal is to keep racing and maybe win a few here or there – but while always having fun, because that’s the main goal:
“Have fun and load up in one piece. I’d like to win some races, but having fun is the main thing. I just want to keep racing the same class as long as I can and have fun. If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
To continue following Nick this season, click HERE to see his team’s Facebook page.
(Photos provided by Xtreme Racing; lead photo by Matthew Freeman [click HERE for more]).
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