By Levi King
(September 2005) When Westfield High School senior Steph-anie Mockler isnt studying for exams, you can probably find her in the garage or on the track. Mockler, 17, spends her weekends competing in two USAC Ford Focus Midget Car series the Midwest Series and the Indianapolis Speedrome Series.
Photo by Dave Gansert
Stephanie Mockler, 17,
suits up for a recent race.
In 19 races this season, Mockler has posted 14 top-five finishes and two wins. She finished eighth in the Speedrome championship after gaining her first win of the season at the series final race on Aug. 3. Mockler started the 50-lap feature in ninth position and steadily climbed her way to the top, clinching the lead in lap 35. Joining her on the podium were two other female drivers a first for a nationally sanctioned race.
In a traditionally male sport, Mockler said many competitors tend to underestimate her until they see her on the track. Most of them respect me now, but I think I had to work extra hard to earn that, she said. There are still some guys that cant accept losing to a girl.
Mockler hopes to scale the podium again at the Kentucky Speedway when the Midwest Series returns there on Sept. 10. She took second place at the Sparta track during a race in July.
Since wrapping up the Speedrome series with what became known as Girls Night Out, Mockler has returned her focus to the Midwest Series, where she is second in the points standings. She notched her first win of the season in that series on Aug. 13 at Lakeville, Ohio. The night began poorly Mockler was penalized during the heat race for failing to stop under a red flag. Officials came down hard on the driver, ordering her to either start the feature at the back of the 15-car field or load up and go home.
I told her, Now youve gotta show them what youre made of, said Warren Mockler, Stephanies father. She does really well when she gets upset.
Mockler leveled her anger on the 20 laps before her, holding steady while several drivers slid off the slick surface and over the embankment. She passed high and low to third position, putting pressure on the leaders until both spun out in the turns and left Mockler poised for a victory. On lap 11, rain cut the race short, and Mockler cruised in early to victory lane.
Ford Focus Midgets-Midwest
2005 Driver Point Standings
(Prior to Aug. 13 race
at Lakeville, Ohio.)
Pos. Driver Points
1. Tate Martz 775
2. Stephanie Mockler 674
3. Joshua Clemons 546
4. James Robertson 537
5. Jimmy Light 536
6. Brandon Wagner 482
7. Kyle Robbins 474
8. Ronnie Wuerdeman 470
9. Derek Fisher 422
10. Adam Kramer 396
11. Nick Wagner 364
12. Tony Main 326
13. Brandon Hartsell 299
14. Kevin Studley 295
15. Zach Gibson 165
16. Courtney Kirts 164
17. Robbie Ray 145
18. Ricky Ehrgott 135
19. Nick Hansen 122
20. Jordan Noblitt 118
From the beginning of Mocklers career, racing has been a family affair. Older sister Shannon began racing quarter midgets under the tutelage of their father, a veteran of go-karts, championship dirt cars and USAC midgets. Warren Mockler put Stephanie behind the wheel of a quarter midget at age 6 in Kokomo and Indianapolis.
My oldest daughter was a good racer, but early on, Stephanie wasnt so quick. She was having fun, but she just wasnt competitive, Warren recalled.
Little by little, her performance improved. I began to tell myself, I think the little squirt can win one of these, he laughed.
Mockler eventually captured three titles at the Kokomo Quarter Midget Club before graduating to another class.
When her older sister opted out of racing, Mockler took the helm of her 600cc micro-sprint car. She placed second in points in 2003 at the Miami County Speedway in Peru, Ind. Mockler still runs the micro-sprint on occasion but since 2004 has spent most of her time running a full-size midget on the USAC Ford Focus Series. Since all competitors use factory sealed, in-line 4-cylinder Ford Focus motors, the series provides a level playing field where the only variables are driver skill and chassis.
Racing is a thrill for me, Mockler said. I like everything about it.
She said she enjoys spending the time with her father, who serves as her chief mechanic and coach. Dad coaches me about everything, but there are some things you just have to get out there and learn for yourself, said Mockler.
Warren agrees; I give her all the help I can, but youve just got to make the mistakes. I cant teach her everything, he said.
One thing Warren has taught his daughter is how to work on the race car. She can come off the track and say, I think it needs more stagger, or I think it needs more gear. So well get right in there and make the adjustments together.
Mockler hopes to race her way into a professional career in NASCAR or IndyCar, but she has a backup plan just in case that doesnt work out. She would also like to be a mechanical engineer or a schoolteacher.