Mitch Stapleton, better known to NASCAR fans as Stapleton42, is one of the biggest fan creators on YouTube with more than 240,000 subscribers. Nearly every week, his audience is treated to fascinating content such as an intimate storytelling session with Rusty Wallace, a tour of the International Mo- torsports Hall of Fame and even a personal tour of Richard Petty’s childhood home. But before all that, he was just a broke college student souping up his dad’s Esca- lade and hanging with his friends at the drag strip. Mitch sat down with NASCAR Pole Position to give us the origin tale of his NASCAR history series.
This is a story of voided warranties, DMing with racing legends and getting hung up on by the Petty Museum.
HOW DID THE CHANNEL START?
It started with this LS Escalade. As far as I know, it’s the fastest one in the world. I built that from 2016 to 2019. I started drag racing, just because my Monte Carlo was broken all the time, and my friends were going to the drag strip.
It was supposed to be my dad’s work vehicle if he needed to carry something around, but he never re- ally used it. So he said, “This is what you’re going to drive to college. And if I need to use it, then you’ll take my car to class.” I didn’t have a say in what I drove. He wouldn’t even let me buy my own car, because I want- ed to buy something that was a V-8, and he thought I was going to kill myself. So he said, “No, you’re driving this or tough shit.”
I tuned it up without my dad knowing about it because it was under warranty, and he would have kicked my ass if he knew that it was voided. That was just me being young and dumb. He didn’t find out that the warranty was voided until it had a blower on it for about two months. But he wasn’t mad. He figured that if I took the engine out and changed the head gaskets, the camshaft, all this stuff, and drove it around for two months without any problems, then I had proven my worth as my own warranty.
But I knew he never would have let me if I asked him, because everything else I had worked on up until that point didn’t really work that well. I screwed up everything I touched.
Well, that evolved to taking it to the drag strip, which I also was not allowed todo. I was never allowed to do anything remotely dangerous with anything that had wheels. I wasn’t allowed to have a go-kart when I was growing up. I went to NASCAR races with my dad, at least twice a year from 2001 to 2011. So NASCAR was my first passion, my first interest in life, as long as I can remember. I just love everything about it, but I wasn’t allowed to do it. So I just had to put that on the backburner and do something else.
Things just started getting a bunch of attention – getting posted on The Hot Rod Instagram page, 1320 Video and all that stuff. I realized, “Dang, I think I can do something with this thing. My goal at the time was to have it be marketable enough that it could build itself. When I was in college, I had no money. I had to scrounge together what little money I made from detailing cars and stuff in the summer.
So I go to the trade shows. I went there with my business cards, and I made a little packet and all this stuff, and was able to prove my concept enough to gain sponsors to do this big turbo build. The big turbo build is what led to the creation of the YouTube channel.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST BIG BREAKTHROUGH FOR THE CHANNEL?
I started posting on the channel in spring of 2020, and one of the first videos I ever posted that got a large number of views was finding Dale Earnhardt’s old Newell Coach on sale in Nevada. I knew a guy who was selling it for a ridiculous deal, so I was able to get a loan and buy this thing. Because I’m like, “This is going to enable me to get out of Pennsylva- nia and go where racing is.”
I thought, “Oh man, this is it!” How cool would that be? He only had three of these things and I just found one of them for sale, and it was in a price range that I could handle.
After doing that Earnhardt video, I got to talk to the people at the Newell factory. So I went to the factory to learn more about the stuff, and that’s really where the racing history aspect of it started.
The guy I got it from said he thought that Robert Gordon used to have it, but he didn’t know for sure. But somebody told me, “Well, why don’t you just call Robby Gordon Motorsports and ask him?”
So I did. I told them I had a weird question. I bought this motorhome and some- body told me it used to be Robby’s. Could you be able to confirm or deny that? I told her what it looked like and stuff. She put me on hold for about five minutes, and then someone picks up the phone, and it’s Robby.
He’s like, “Hey, man, I can’t believe you found my old motorhome. I haven’t seen that thing in forever!” Meanwhile, I’m driving this thing, barely staying between the lines, thinking, “Holy shit! I’m talking to Robby Gordon right now! Man, this is cool.”
HOW DID THE CHANNEL EVOLVE INTO NASCAR HISTORY?
Mark Martin bought a Yukon Denali, he posts about it on Instagram and I made a comment on that post. He went to my page, and I guess saw the Escalade and thought it was cool, and he followed me. I’m always posting things with really long captions, and real insight. I always tried to do that to provide some kind of lesson or introspection, not just posting a picture. I think he picked up on that. Then, he started paying attention to what I was doing really closely.
I woke up the first night of sleeping in the Newell to a message from Mark. “Hey, text me,” and then he called me right after that. I talked to Robby Gordon yesterday, now Mark Martin calls me today. This is his motorhome.
His endorsement opened the door for everything for us in this world. I actually called Petty’s museum about a year before and asked about doing a video there. The lady answered the phone and was like, “Aha, yeah, we don’t need YouTube,” and hung up on me. So I said, “OK, we’ll see about that.”
We were going through St. Louis one day and I thought Kenny Wallace was in St. Louis. Maybe he would want to do a history tour video with us, because he’s doing YouTube now. And that was a few months after we had done the museum and hometown history video with Mark Martin.
So I called Kenny and he’s like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Just give me three days’ heads up.” So we went there, and Mark had explained to him who we are and what we did and all that stuff. As soon as we got there, it was like he had known me forever, and the whole hometown history tour video concept was created by accident.
When we were there at Mark Martin’s museum, we started talking about his dad’s trucking company in Batesville, and he said, “Oh, I could just show you. Why don’t you ride with me?” I ended up driving around to a few different places with him telling stories.
After that, I was like, this is a great structure for this. It is awesome to hear these guys tell these stories until they’re blue in the face, and then when you see where those things happened – it’s completely different.
And so we did the same thing with Kenny, and that did well. I guess he was be- hind what we were doing and saw that we really cared about the history. So we’ve gotten to know Kenny pretty well, and he’s become the other godfather of this stuff. If Kenny knows somebody in the business, he’ll just give me their number and say, “Tell them I told you to talk to him.” Or if he doesn’t know them that well, he’ll ask them first, and they usually say yes.
Everybody wins, because these guys love talking about what they did. It’s not like people are asking him about it every day any more. Right? And I love hearing about it. I love seeing it. I’d want to do this stuff even if the camera wasn’t going. When you grow up as a little kid and NASCAR is your thing, and you see Jeff Gordon or Bobby Labonte in the back of that truck going around the track in their fire suits, that might as well be your Superman or Batman. Except your Batman is real. He doesn’t go away when you turn the TV off or close a comic book. You can go talk to him.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE VIDEO SO FAR?
The Mark Martin hometown history tour is probably my favorite. That was profound. The things that he talked about, to see where they happened, and the way he talked about his dad. It was just intense. I left that parking lot with a little bit of a different perspective on everything.