What’s it like to go from the NASCAR oval to Sprint Cup road racing? Dylan Lupton’s debut at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 gives us a glimpse.
There are three main series in NASCAR‘s Home Tracks racing category. The entry point is the Camping World Truck Series, and a step above that is the XFINITY Series, which is run on the oval track that many associate with NASCAR.
Then there’s the most prestigious one, the Sprint Cup Series. Most NASCAR racers aspire to compete and win in Sprint Cup.
So how different is it to drive Sprint Cup versus XFINITY Series? Here’s Dylan Lupton‘s take after his debut at the Toyota/Save Mart 350, where Lupton finished 35 out of 40 drivers. He and two other teammates represented BK Racing, and this year Lupton is driving for Toyota Racing.
Related: TECH: Toyota Racing Development – From NASCAR To Your Car
BestRide: So how did it go?
Dylan Lupton: Saturday we had qualifying, and it really wasn’t what we were expecting, all of us BK cars would have liked to have qualified better. Sunday was the same story.
We made a lot of changes to our Toyota Camry. It seemed like since we unloaded there, we missed a little bit that was hurting our performance.
But these races are so tough – for being my debut, and being able to run with my teammates all day long and in front of them most of the time, it was a good showing for us, even though the result doesn’t reflect that.
BR: What kinds of changes did you make on the car from Saturday to Sunday?
DL: A lot of front geometry changes. We made some spring changes, we played with shocks a lot, we transferred weight – we did a lot to these race cars trying to get them a little bit faster. But it seemed like there was one problem we just couldn’t find throughout the weekend.
BR: Right. Sounds like a lot of tweaks to get to it, but it didn’t quite reveal itself.
DL: Yes, absolutely. These race cars already don’t handle too great unless drivers were trying to get the best out of them, and it can make for a long weekend when things aren’t going the way you’d like ’em to.
BR: Frustrating, I bet.
DL: Yeah, absolutely.
BR: Since this was your debut, what would you say the differences were – of course there are a lot – between the racing you were doing before and Sprint Cup?
DL: I would say the biggest difference was the weight and horsepower of these race cars. They have more power and they’re heavier. They’re a whole ‘nother animal, these cars are really tough to drive.
And then also just the length of the race, it’s longest race I’ve ran. Once you get a few more races under your belt, you certainly get used to it, but for the first one, it was a tough long day out there.
BR: It’s 110 laps, right?
DL: Yes, this last one was 110 laps, I think it was just about a three-hour-long race.
BR: That sounds grueling.
DL: It gets very hot in these race cars, upwards past 130 degrees, and when you’re in there for three hours, it totally drains you. Even [a couple days afterward] I was feeling symptoms of heat exhaustion.
I go to the gym every day and do cardio and lift weights, but you can’t duplicate this setting in the gym. If you’re doing them every weekend, then you sort of learn by your body and what you need to do to prepare yourself for these long races, and I wasn’t prepared, I guess.
BR: Sounds like it’s a matter of building up your stamina.
DL: Yes, absolutely, you really have to learn about hydration and what your body needs to be able to sustain that temperature for that long of a race.
BR: Do you want to continue with Sprint Cup?
DL: Well, you know the Sprint Cup Series is the highest series in NASCAR, and every driver dreams of being there, so I’m very grateful and excited for the opportunity, and I look forward to hopefully continuing my career in this series.
I’d like to do another five to six races this year, and then next year either go full-time in the Sprint Cup series or the XFINITY Series. We’ll just take it race by race now, to give me some more laps in these Cup cars so I can learn and get prepared for next year, wherever I end up.
BR: It sounds like this kind of racing has to become normal for you to get the results you want.
DL: Yeah, in this series, you’re going up against the 40 best drivers in the world, and these guys are in the car every single weekend, and they have been for the last 10 to 15 years-plus. So these guys have a lot of laps and know these race cars, and I only got 35 laps before the race on Sunday, so that’s a big disadvantage. The more seat time I get, the more I’m going to learn and progress.
BR: You seemed to do pretty well, considering what you were up against there.
DL: We didn’t get the finish we wanted, coming in 35th. We were up higher throughout the race, and it seemed like at the end, we slipped up a little bit trying to make some passes on the outside of a few corners, which resulted in me getting passed by quite a bit of cars.
But I’m just happy about the way this weekend went and being able to bring local sponsors on board, like Elk Grove Toyota and Bell Brothers, and I was grateful for the whole opportunity from BK Racing, and I look forward to the future.
I was very excited to be able to get into a Toyota this weekend. I’ve been a customer of Elk Grove Toyota for five or six years now as they’ve serviced my Tacoma, so it was a great opportunity to have Elk Grove on the race car.
BR: This is a question I ask race car drivers – what’s it like to compete on a racetrack and then drive on a public road?
DL: Ah, you know, we’re able to flip a switch pretty easily and go from being aggressive and driving fast on the racetrack to hopping in our cars and just cruise down the highway at 65 mph – going from a race car to being a law-abiding citizen (chuckles).
Follow Dylan Lupton on Twitter to keep up with his upcoming races.
Photos courtesy of Toyota.
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