In the Driver's Seat

shelby-strobel-b Shelby Stroebel started racing because of its therapeutic value. It wasn't his well-being that concerned him, though. It was his father's.

Allen Stroebel was diagnosed with leukemia a decade ago. He had been a crew chief for a Street Stock racer at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway and when he started thinking of ways to make his dad feel better physically and mentally Shelby remembered how much Allen had enjoyed his time in racing.

"I was thinking of ways to make him feel more positive and have something to look forward to," Shelby said, "so I said 'hey, you want to be the crew chief on a car?'"

Shelby didn't have a car at the time. In fact, except for a cross-country snowmobile event he'd never raced at all. But when his dad agreed to be his crew chief Shelby bought a car. He said he was planning to buy a Street Stock or something similar, but Jentry Pisca talked him into a Modified.

"I bought an old speedway chassis," he said. "It was kind of half dirt and half asphalt. The third race I was in I won the thing and I've been paying for it ever since. We started buying better and better cars and getting faster and faster."

Pisca also gave Stroebel his nickname one night about five years ago when they were in a group relaxing in a hotel hot tub after a day of racing at Shasta Speedway.

"I was trying to say something," Stroebel said, "and finally Jentry looked at me and said 'spit it out, cupcake.' He still calls me that once in a while, and at Meridian they say it religiously over the microphone."

They've had many occasions to say it, too, because Cupcake kept getting better and faster until he became unbeatable. In 2012 he won 14 times in 14 starts, claimed the track championship and was the American Speed Association (ASA) Member Track National Champion.

Stroebel dedicated the championships to his father, who had passed away in the fall of 2011.

Last year Stroebel competed at his hometown track and in the Outlaw Modifieds series in the Northwest and with the help of LoanMart joined the Lucas Oil Modified Series on a full-time basis. He ran 25 races in all, in addition to helping daughter Caitlin with her Modified, and continued to dominate in the Northwest, where he has lost just twice since 2011. It was a bit different in the Lucas Oil series, however.

"It was a little bittersweet because I got taken out in the first couple of races (at Havasu 95 Speedway and Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, California) and again in Salt Lake City. So I started way back in the points and didn't think I'd ever get back in front, and then I ended up third (in the Hoosier Tire West point standings). That was amazing. I couldn't be any happier with it."

Stroebel had three top five finishes, two of those at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and a pair of BILSTEIN Trophy Dash victories. He also learned a lot about the series and about racing with bump stops, which essentially are rubber washers used in conjunction with the other components of the front suspension to keep the nose of the car down and the ride height consistent.

Bump stops are not allowed in the other series he races, however, and they require a slightly different driving style than Stroebel is comfortable with. So Stroebel said when he puts them on for a Lucas Oil Modified race "it's a guess. Sometimes we get close (to the right setup) and sometimes we don't. We're learning. It's slow, but we're learning."

Stroebel said this year he is limiting his racing to the Lucas Oil series and the Outlaw series, which will have its first race April 26. He and daughter Caitlin were supposed to race each other there. But Caitlin, 18, will be attending her Senior Prom at Meridian High School and Lucas Oil series regular Matthew Hicks will be filling in.

"I'm looking forward to spending time with him. But I think he's going to try to smoke me," Stroebel said with a laugh.

SHELBY STROEBEL AT A GLANCE

Age: 41 (13 October 1972)

Lives in: Meridian, Idaho

Marital status: Single; in a relationship with Holly Flynn. One child, Caitlin, 18

Occupation: Owner-operator Trinity Construction

Car number: 24

Type of chassis: STR

Engine: Mike Montgomery Racing Engines Chevrolet

Crew Chief: Steve Wood

Sponsors: LoanMart; Trinity Construction; Tony's Texaco; Silvercreek Realty; Brandon Loverock

Years in racing: 8

Divisions raced: Modifieds, Lucas Oil Modifieds

Titles and awards: Magic Valley Speedway champion 2008; Idaho State Modified champion 2009; Meridian Speedway ASA champion 2011-2012; ASA national champion 2012

Series point standings: 38 (2006); T41 (2007); 51 (2008); 24 (2009); 26 (2010); 25 (2011); T37 (2012); 3 (2013)