Allstars finalist Shipp finds magic outside of her comfort zone

Randi Lyn Shipp and her 1967 Pontiac Firebird Stock Eliminator entry. Photo: Auto Imagery

Making the Stock Eliminator final in the JEGS Allstars at the 67th annual Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals only tells a small part of Randi Lyn Shipp’s 2021 story. Shipp, a second-generation Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitor, stepped outside of her normal style of racing this year, and it seems to be serving her well.

“I feel like I’m driving better than I have in my entire life,” said Shipp, an already-accomplished racer who is engaged to Bo Butner, the 2006 Comp Eliminator national champion and NHRA’s 2017 Pro Stock series champ. “I think part of that is because we’ve been bracket racing a lot, and I’ve made a lot of laps. I’ve done a whole lot of racing that makes me uncomfortable.

“Super Comp takes me completely out of my element, but bracket racing and the top bulb reaction time stuff was something that I did not like in the beginning. Once I started doing it and practicing, I got better – and I think it’s made me an all-around better racer and driver. It’s given me the confidence I needed mentally to go up there every round and think, ‘I got this.’ ”

Shipp also learned to lean into the fact that in bracket racing, it’s not just a one-and-done type of deal. There are four or five opportunities each weekend to recover from a stumble, and racing this way launched a reframing of perception.

“I don’t have the mentality like, I can’t screw up or it’s over. Now it’s just, let’s do this,” she explained. “It’s a whole different mental game, and it’s one I haven’t had in years past.”

Shipp didn’t attend her first NHRA points race this year until June in Norwalk, and although results weren’t stellar early, within a month the Floyds Knobs, Indiana, resident was picking up steam. A semifinals-finish at the Columbus division race in July preceded a runner-up at the Topeka national, and the following week, Shipp made her way to the winner’s circle with a division win at Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Raceway Park.

Shipp and her team after winning the divisional event at Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Raceway Park in August

“We bracket raced a lot earlier this year, and those were long, hard days,” said Shipp. “We did very well, and we had a lot of success right out of the gate that most people would die over – I’m grateful for that, because a lot of people bracket race for years and don’t have that kind of success.”

But for Shipp, it turns out that home is where her Stock Eliminator ’67 Pontiac Firebird is.

“Bracket racing, I got to the point where I was like, I don’t know if I want to do it like this anymore. I sure as heck don’t want to go every weekend,” admitted Shipp. “I never had that feeling when I was running my Stocker. I wanted to go Wednesday nights and Thursday nights and every weekend all the time. It scared me to feel like I didn’t want to keep going. But we pulled my Stocker back out, and it was right back to normal.”

After relinquishing the win to Jerry Emmons in the JEGS Allstars final this weekend with an uncharacteristic .002-second red light, Shipp is more eager than ever to get back to showing the potential of the combination of her driving and that super-clean vintage Pontiac.

“That car is a part of me,” she said. “I’m comfortable when I get in it. I know what I’m supposed to do. I trust it, and it trusts me – for the most part.”

Shipp on making the JEGS Allstars team for the first time:
“It’s just something every racer wants. The JEGS Allstars are our Olympics, and if you win, it’s the same as getting a gold medal for us. It was an honor to be there, and I was glad to race Jammin’ Jerry [Emmons]. The Emmons boys are always fun to race, but usually, I have a different outcome. I guess he owed me one from several before, so I’ll take this beating and hopefully get to come back next year.”

Photo: Auto Imagery

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