Rookie Leads Hickory Limited Late Models
An 18-year-old stock-car racing rookie is off to a successful start at one of NASCAR’s most historic and toughest tracks.
Shane Lee of Newton, N.C., leads this week’s NASCAR Finalist Division II Asphalt standings. He’s also the Paramount KIA Limited Late Model division point leader at Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, N.C. Lee scored his first career feature win in just his third start of the season. His record now stands at five wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s in nine starts.
To excel so quickly is evidence of Lee’s talent. But he also has benefit of being mentored by Dexter Canipe, the 1997 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion. Canipe is Lee’s crew chief and spotter.
“I wasn’t expecting to win this soon,” Lee said. “Dexter said we’d win by our fifth start, but we did it our third time out.”
The NASCAR Finalist Division program recognizes drivers who compete in support divisions at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks. With “Division I” being each track’s top division, the NASCAR Finalist Division line-up at each track highlights drivers competing in their second, third, fourth and fifth tier divisions. A NASCAR-licensed driver’s best 14 finishes are counted toward their final point total for the year. Points are kept separately for dirt and asphalt tracks.
Other paved track NASCAR Finalist Division leaders this week include Division III Joe Hensel, Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway and Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia, Ohio; Division IV Ken Cassidy Jr., Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl; and Division V David Rader, Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.
NASCAR Finalist Division leaders on dirt tracks this week include Division II Jesse Dennis, Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa and I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb.; Division III Brad Derry, Adams County and I-80; Division IV Jeffrey Jones, Adams County and I-80; and Division V Jeremy Auten, Adams County.
Canipe helped prepare the longtime go-kart driver and their new Greg Marlowe-built LTO Performance Center chassis race car for this season. Canipe works closely with Marlowe, who is a NASCAR track championship winner both as a driver and chassis builder.
“Dexter taught me how to drive the car. When we took it to the track to test for the first time, he was the first to drive it. I think what Dexter wants most is for us to win the championship,” Lee said.
“It all goes back to surrounding yourself with good people and good equipment,” Canipe said. “I knew Shane was going to be good. He knows car control from racing go-karts.”
Canipe, who retired from driving in 2001 after winning the fall NASCAR Late Model Stock Car race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, has a wealth of experience. He has NASCAR track championships at Hickory, Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, N.C. and Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C. He is the only NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion to go on to win the series’ national Mechanic of the Year Award in 2004. He guided his son Dexter Jr. to championships at both Hickory and Tri-County.
The 62-year-old Hickory Motor Speedway is a challenging track. The turns are banked at different heights at each corner of the .363-mile oval. Racing on its weathered surface requires a driver’s full attention.
“I didn’t run the high line around the track until the third race,” Lee said. “We restarted that race with me on the outside for the first time and we took off. The top just has more grip.”
Lee’s car owner is his father Mike, who won Hickory’s Limited Sportsman division championship in 1986.
At season’s end the top three drivers in the four asphalt and four dirt NASCAR Finalist Divisions will be recognized at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series awards banquet.