Home Local Sports Canipe wins Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge race at Rockingham Speedway

Canipe wins Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge race at Rockingham Speedway

Shane Canipe leads Luke Smith on the front stretch at Rockingham Speedway before crossing the finish line to win the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge Summer Showdown on July 3. Photos by William R. Toler except where noted.

ROCKINGHAM ― With a driver more than 20 years younger on his bumper coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap, Shane Canipe pushed the No. 1 car ahead to take the checkered flag ― and a $5,000 purse ― in the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge Rock the Roval Summer Showdown on Sunday.

Canipe, 47, from Hickory, started the race in the third position but quickly took the lead and held onto it for most of the 20-lap event at Rockingham Speedway.

The 1.5-mile roval layout took drivers around Turns 1 and 2 of the oval track before entering the infield road course just before Turn 3, looping around to reenter the oval just before Turn 4.

The aforementioned younger driver, 18-year-old Luke Smith of Advance, came in second with the No. 80 Mustang, despite being the top qualifier.

Luke Smith slides into his car prior to the start of the race.

Smith started racing go-karts in 2015 and moved up to racing at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem in 2019 and won three races his first year at the age of 15.
“He done a great job,” Canipe said of Smith. “He roughed me up pretty good ― that’s racing.”

For most of the race, Canipe, Smith and Michael Tucker in the No. 16 Mustang held the top three spots. Positions changed a few times with Smith leading at one point and falling back to third behind Tucker at another.

“After that last caution, we got a good start, got behind Canipe … just rode and rode and rode right behind him, just gave him my bumper … tried to just stay with him,” Smith said about the final lap. “I didn’t want to wreck him, but I just wanted to let him know I was there.”

Luke Smith, left, and Shane Canipe shake hands following the race.

Canipe was more familiar with the track than some of the other drivers as he had been part of a tire test in December 2020 for the ill-fated CARS Tour race. That event was originally pushed from March to November and then ultimately canceled, with the official reason given as a Hoosier tire shortage.

Travis Miller, who drove the only truck in Sunday’s race and came in at sixth place, was also at the tire test.

Canipe also participated in the test a month before to get a feel for the roval.

“We had a little bit of an idea of what to do, what it was going to take,” Canipe said in the Papa Joe Hendrick Garage following his victory. “It was a big swing … We called everybody we knew on the Cup side (for advice).”

During a test session the week before the race, Canipe said he blew a motor.

“We didn’t know there was a … road racing oil pan that was available,” he said. “So when we brought our regular stuff, we knocked the rod bearings out of it.”
Canipe showed up for the two-day event with a brand new motor.

As Canipe said during the June 1 test, the roval course is more challenging than an oval track.

“These cars … aren’t made to go right, they’re built to go left,” Canipe said. “You’ve got to do what you can to get it to go right.”

His uncle, Tim Canipe, ran off the track coming into the road course but rejoined the pack without stopping, ultimately placing fifth.

Tim Canipe runs off the course into the infield in the No. 10 car.

Canipe said the toughest turn in the course was the first right turn in the road course.

“It’s just so sweeping,” he said. “You’re trying to carry speed and you’re spinning tires …it’s crazy.”


Smith said the roval was “a big difference” from the tracks he’s used to racing.

“Preparing your brakes, your motor and everything to go along with it … running this kinda stuff right here is super hard on a motor,” Smith said. “We were turning up to 9 grand and maybe more in some parts, so you really had to just give and take some and be hard on the brake in some areas and less in others.”

This was Smith’s first time competing in a car on road course.

Michael Tucker, left, and Luke Smith battle for second position down the front stretch of the infield road course with Tim Canipe close behind.

Canipe has been behind the wheel for about 30 years, driving late models in addition to the 4-cylinder mini-stocks.

“We were just really fortunate to be there at the end and not have our stuff break,” Canipe continued. “We’ve lost so many races breaking. So coming here, the odds were definitely against us … this track demands so much.

“I couldn’t be here without all my guys,” Canipe said, adding that he doesn’t have a garage to put his cars in. “To get here and have the team effort we have speaks volumes.”

Of the 11 drivers to start the race, only seven completed all 20 laps.

Canipe wasn’t the only winner on Sunday.

Prior to the race, fans were paired up with a driver at a chance at $500 if their driver won. That prize went to Renee Machel.

Contributed photo

The next stop is another revived historic track: North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Smith wasn’t even born the last time a Cup race was held at Wilkesboro ‘96 and said he doesn’t take being able to drive on the historic tracks for granted.

Rockingham and Wilkesboro are both non-points races.

Robert Strmiska, who placed fourth at Rockingham, is currently points leader for the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge 2022 season. Canipe is third in point standings behind Chuck Wall, who didn’t run the roval.

The races at East Carolina Motor Speedway in April and Orange County Motor Speedway in May were both canceled.

Click here to see more photos from the race.

Click here for video highlights on Monday’s Live at 5.

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.