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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IMSA race at Daytona: How to watch, start times, schedule, TV info, more

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IMSA start times: For the first time in more than five months, Daytona International Speedway will have a sports car race as the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series returns to the same place it left off today (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

After being sidelined by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, the premier sports car circuit will wave the green again on its 2020 season today. But instead of the annual 24-hour endurance classic, Saturday’s WeatherTech 240 will be a “sprint race” around the 3.56-mile road course.

Here are the details for IMSA’s second race of the season at Daytona (all times are ET):


IMSA WeatherTech 240 at Daytona race information

TV: 6 p.m. NBCSN, NBC Sports App and TrackPass

RADIO: IMSA Radio will have live radio coverage throughout the weekend on IMSARadio.com, as well as Sirius Channel 216, XM 210, Internet 970

RACE DISTANCE: Two hours, 40 minutes around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway

FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 88 degrees with a 51% chance of rain at the green flag.

ENTRY LIST: Click here to see the 26 cars entered in Saturday’s race.


IMSA weekend schedule: Friday, July 3

11 a.m. — WeatherTech Championship Transporter Load-In

1 p.m. — Garages open; pit lane equipment setup

6:15-7:15 p.m. — First practice WeatherTech Championship (all classes)

9:30 p.m. — Garages close

IMSA weekend schedule: Saturday, July 4

8 a.m. — Garages open

8:45 a.m. — Fuel rig inspection

10:15 a,m — 11:30 am — Practice (restricted by classes: 10:15-10:45 a.m., GTD Silver/Bronze; 10:30-11:30 a.m., DPi/GTLM; 10:45-11:15, GTD all drivers)

1:55 p.m. — GTD qualifying

2:20 p.m. — GTLM qualifying

2:45 p.m. — DPi qualifying

6 p.m. — Formation laps

6:10 p.m. — IMSA WeatherTech 240 at Daytona (2 hours, 40 minutes)

11:30 p.m. — Garages close