FORMER TWO TIME TRACK CHAMPION DAVE LAPE SET TO RETURN TO RACING AT UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY by Doug Zupan VERNON, NY- Canajoharie's Dave Lape, 53, has not turned a lap at Vernon's Utica-Rome Speedway since 1987. But that could all change soon, as...
FORMER TWO TIME TRACK CHAMPION DAVE LAPE SET TO RETURN TO RACING AT
by Doug Zupan
VERNON, NY- Canajoharie's Dave Lape, 53, has not turned a lap at Vernon's Utica-Rome Speedway since 1987. But that could all change soon, as the popular 36 year racing veteran who is a two-time track champion at Utica-Rome and a winner on both the asphalt and dirt surfaces, prepares to make a competitive return to racing at the speedway.
"I'm very willing to come back and race at Utica-Rome," said Lape. "I think I'd definitely like it because the track surface is so nice. It has been a while since I've seen such a tacky and smooth track, and I think it would be great to race on."
Lape, who was the designer and builder of the famous Champ Car chassis, was at Utica-Rome on Sunday July 16 to spectate and to promote his LAPCO show at the Can-Am Speedway on Thursday July 20. For Lape, it was his first time at Utica-Rome since 1987, when he last raced a DIRT Big Block Modified on the previous 5/8-mile track, then called New Venture International Speedway.
"This track back then was hard to race on, but it was fast. You'd be going 120mph plus going into the corners, and you would have to slow way down to get through the turns. Both ends of the track were different, and it was very hard to gear the car properly. I really like the way the track is setup now as a half-mile - it is still very fast and looks like it is fun to drive. It's all different to me, and I can't wait to get out there and try it out."
Lape started his career in 1964, and jumped right into the Modified Sportsman division. His first race was at the now defunct Victoria Speedway, and the next night at the Fonda Speedway, the track he calls his home today. At Fonda, Lape has ninety career feature wins, and five track championships, which compares to 136 wins for Jack Johnson along with 11 track championships and 113 wins along with four track championships for "The Incomparable" Lou Lazzaro.
Lape is one of the three drivers to have won on the asphalt and dirt surfaces at Utica-Rome. Lou Lazzaro and Maynard Forrette are the others, but none of them have won on the current half-mile configuration, as all of their wins came on the 5/8-mile.
Lape remembers the days on the 1/3-mile asphalt oval at Utica-Rome. His first feature win came on August 8, 1971 when he was competing against the likes of Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Lou Lazzaro, Rene Charland, Bernie Miller, Bugs Stevens, and Ed Flemke Sr.
"Those guys taught me a lot about racing, especially on the asphalt. It was a tough little track, and I was definitely learning a lot racing with them," said Lape. "That was back when you could run the same car on the dirt one night and the next night on the asphalt and those days are long gone."
Lape's first dirt win at Utica-Rome, came on June 7, 1981 in a year where he would win 4 features and go on to be the track champion. Lape also won the Super DIRT Series 85 lap event in 1985, and became the track champion that year as well. In addition, he posted one win in 1987, the year before the track closed for a season.
In 1989, the track re-opened and went to a format of Small Block Modifieds, running under Outlaw rules, which included alcohol and sail panels. Because Lape was a DIRT Big Block driver, this kept him away from the speedway over the last 13 years.
Lape has been on a tear so far this season at the Fonda Speedway. He has three feature wins, and currently sits third in the track point standings, putting himself into contention for another track championship at the "Track of Champions." Lape credits much of his recent success to his new Burrow's Motorsports No. 22 Teo Pro Car.
"That car is just awesome, and it works really well," said Lape, who stopped building his Champ Cars several years ago.
Lape is ready to return to Utica-Rome. "It would be great to return to Utica-Rome after all these years. I will be there for the 358 Modified season ending 100 lapper on Friday September 22, probably driving one of the Jake Spraker cars. Jake Spraker and I have talked about being a team car to Tim Clemons at Utica-Rome, and it could be just about any Sunday that I will return to race."
The big question is if Lape will be at Utica-Rome on Thursday August 24 for the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series 100 lap event for the DIRT Big Block Modifieds.
"I would definitely be there in a heartbeat, but the problem is that Jackie and I are going on vacation then to Martha's Vineyard. But I was so impressed with the track that I am seriously considering ending the vacation a little early and bringing our car out to Utica-Rome for that show. Fred and Louise Burrows have supported and sponsored us for years now, and they have not been to Fonda in several years. We'd also like to come back to Utica-Rome for them since they live nearby and have been great to us. Right now, we are leaning towards being at Utica-Rome that night."
Whenever Lape returns to Utica-Rome, race fans will be in for a real treat because Lape is one of the all-time greats in DIRT Modified racing and at Utica-Rome Speedway.