Canadian Drivers at #indyTO: Cayden Lapcevich of the NASCAR Pinty's Series

Cayden Lapcevich: “I felt like we were always the ones to beat.”

By: Christian Ryan

It takes most drivers a lifetime to reach the levels of success that 17-year old Cayden Lapcevich has achieved.

In 2016, the Grimsby, Ontario native became the first driver ever to win the NASCAR Pinty’s Series championship and rookie of the year award in the same season. In one year, Cayden Lapcevich went from newcomer to conquerer of a national NASCAR sanctioned series, no small feat in a series that features bona fide Canadian motorsport legends such as Alex Tagliani and D.J. Kennington. Despite this seemingly instant success, it’s been a long and hard-fought road for Lapcevich.

Born into a racing family as a third-generation driver behind grandfather Joe Lapcevich and father Jeff Lapcevich, Cayden has had racing in his veins for the entirety of his young life. After spending much of his early life enamoured with the cars in his grandfather’s race shop, Fastline Motorsports, Cayden would soon have a car to call his own at the shop. With his keen interest racing noticed, four-year old Cayden woke up on Christmas morning to find his very own quarter midget car.

“It was something I was just hooked on,” he says of his first taste of racing. “I always wanted to go to the shop every day and race around a little cone track we made in the parking lot… It was something that I loved doing and thought I could do for a long time.”

His passion for racing quickly graduated him from the parking lot to the race track. Beginning at small local tracks, Lapcevich began outpacing his friends. Soon, more advanced national competition was sought out, and Cayden’s climb up the racing ladder was underway. Before long, he was winning national events on his road to seven national quarter midget championships.

“We started hitting up all the biggest races we could get our hands on,” he explains. “We were always competitive. I felt like we were always the ones to beat. It was just something that I loved doing, and I loved winning at the same time. It always made the hard work every night a really good feeling.”

With Joe and Jeff Lapcevich feeling that it was time for Cayden to face even stronger competition, he set his sights on super stock racing. The bigger, heavier machines made for a tough learning curve, as Lapcevich spend his first two years facing the struggles of the more advanced series.

“It was definitely a challenge when we moved up,” Lapcevich admits. “It was just a lot of hard work, dedication, and that motivation to go to the track, and that willingness to go out there and do all that we could to win.”

By the time Lapcevich had the cars figured out, the competition did not stand a chance.

“My last year in Super Stock, we won almost everything that we could,” he says. “It was just a progressive step and a really huge learning experience.”

That experience was invaluable when it came time for the teenager to move up into the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, the pinnacle of stock car racing in Canada. After two dominant championship performances in super stock, Lapcevich was ready to make another big transition into the series and face another tough learning curve. However, upon getting to the Pinty’s Series, he felt right at home behind the wheel: “The car sort of drove similar to Super Stocks with the difference of more horsepower and better suspension."

That comfort and familiarity saw Lapcevich take to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series quickly, collecting three wins and nine top-five finishes en route to the championship and rookie of the year honours. Lapcevich turned the world of Canadian stock car racing upside down with his dominating performances in the family-owned Fastline Motorsports 76 car. While the racing world saw an instant success story, Lapcevich felt the satisfaction of years of hard work.

“It was really neat to see that all our hard work and hours spent out in the garage and at the race shop throughout the years were really paying off,” he says. “It definitely was really hard doing it with so minimal sponsorship, but I think that made winning the championship and rookie of the year at the end of the year just so much better.”

Despite the rookie season championship and an even faster start to 2017 with a win in round three at Autodrome Chaudiere, Lapcevich’s 76 machine continues to ride with a blank hood. Having suffered the loss of a primary sponsor prior to the 2016 season, the team is still in search of that big sponsorship opportunity to carry the team through the racing season.

“We’re not really committed to the whole season right now because if anything bad were to happen it would blow our whole budget and that would be the end of things,” Lapcevich admits. “I know that some of the budgets that we compete against are probably double or triple what we have, but we make the most of what we’ve got and we do the best that we can.”

A major step for Lapcevich and his team came when he was named as part of the 2017 NASCAR Next program. The program turns NASCAR’s brightest young talent into racing professionals, teaching them marketable skills such as media training and presentation to increase visibility and appeal to sponsors. As part of the program, Lapcevich will also connect with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano to learn how he turned his youthful success into a career at NASCAR’s top level.

“When NASCAR Next contacted me and let me know that I was chosen to be a part of it, it was definitely something I was really proud about,” Lapcevich says. “It was just another step in the right direction, I feel. The NASCAR Next program has definitely a lot of big opportunities for us.”

In conjunction with the Benefits of the NASCAR Next program, the young champion also looks to the Pinty’s Grand Prix in Honda Indy Toronto to put himself on an international stage.

“Being the support race to the IndyCar Series brings in a lot of different fans that might not usually watch the Pinty’s Series,” he says. “There’s some big opportunities there to get a different brand out there and get a company well known because the media that’s going to be there, the fans that are going to be there, will probably be three times what we get at a normal Pinty’s race. I think there’s some big opportunity there, and I think some big things could happen through the sponsorship side.”

Away from the racetrack, the 17-year old keeps himself occupied playing high school football, but never takes his mind off of racing. During downtime in the offseason, Lapcevich keeps himself race ready by practicing on iRacing simulators to learn new tracks and racing setups. This dedication coupled with his seemingly instantaneous and overwhelming success has Lapcevich bound for a bright future in professional motorsports.

However, the young driver is still a dedicated student of the sport and takes any opportunity he can to learn from those who came before him: his family, the NASCAR Next program, and the drivers he trades paint with across Canada.

“To see them do it just makes me want to do it even more,” Lapcevich says of drivers of the drivers he admires chasing their dreams in NASCAR’s top series, a goal he also hopes to attain. “There’s so many people that have come through the sport that I hear their stories and hear what they’ve done just to make it down to the States and it’s something that’s incredible. It makes my driving passion and willingness to put it all out on the line and try to make it so much greater.”