The Race Doctor: Patrick Staropoli back in med school, but not giving up on racing dream

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About six weeks ago, Patrick Staropoli drove through the night from Charlotte to Daytona Beach, grabbed a couple hours of sleep and then proceeded to set the fastest speed of 40 drivers in an ARCA test.

Making that effort all the more impressive was the fact it was the first time the Florida native had raced on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, and he did it as a fill-in driver, replacing another driver who was sick.

While Staropoli hoped that kind of performance would lead to a full-time ride for the 2015 season, unfortunately it didn’t, leaving Staropoli to revert to an unusual Plan B.

MORE: What’s up, doc? Aspiring M.D., NASCAR driver Patrick Staropoli featured in prestigious magazine

That’s why Staropoli, after taking a year off, is now back at the University of Miami, where he’s a fourth-semester medical student who soon hopes to add “Dr.” in front of his name.

As much as he wanted to race full-time in 2015, Staropoli had little choice. If he didn’t return to school when he did, the aspiring ophthalmologist would have forfeited all the schooling he had already gone through.

And if the Harvard University graduate ever chose to restart his plans to be a doctor, he’d have had to repeat the entire medical school program all over again.

“The cards that were on the table made the decision for me,” Staropoli told the Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) last week.

Still, Staropoli hopes to play hooky from school if he can find a ride for next Saturday’s (Feb. 14) Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race at DIS.

In other words, even though he still has to finish medical school, Staropoli is not giving up hope of continuing his racing exploits.

“I still think there’s a chance there,” Staropoli, 25, said. “I give myself an A-plus for effort.”

Staropoli spent the second half of last year working as a marketing intern for Michael Waltrip Racing. This came shortly after he won a K&N Pro Series West race at California’s legendary Irwindale Speedway.

While he had to tell UM that he’d be back in school in January, Staropoli was still holding out for a miracle – a racing miracle. He came close to one deal but it fell apart – and Staropoli was back in class on Jan. 5.

“My head’s been in a million different places,” Staropoli said. “I’m just trying to get back in the rhythm of school.”

But while Staropoli is continuing to progress towards one dream of becoming a doctor, he isn’t giving up his other dream of becoming a full-time race car driver.

At 25, he’d like to get a full-time ride – perhaps in the ARCA Series – and work his way up through the NASCAR ranks over the next several years, ultimately reaching his biggest dream of all of racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.

For now, he’s tempering racing with reality. He has board exams in June that, if he passes, will fulfill his doctor dream.

But if he gets a ride for next week’s ARCA race, wins it (or does very well), gets a sponsor and then a full-time offer, his mind is made up. So long school, hello full-time ride.

“The story is there, the performance is there,” Staropoli said. “I just need a certain amount of time, and a certain amount of luck. I’m not giving up.”

In the meantime, between studying and classes, Staropoli has mounted a social media campaign (“#Willwheelforfood”) that he hopes will attract some sponsors.

After all, the way he sees it, Staropoli has a long life ahead of him to become a doctor. But a racing career is much more finite.

“I keep telling myself everything happens for a reason,” Staropoli said. “If nothing else, the last year has been a pretty cool journey.”

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Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.