INVERNESS, Fla. - Patrick Staropoli has had Saturday’s third running of the Full Throttle 100 at Citrus County Speedway circled on his calendar for a year.
Last year Staropoli was running inside the top-five early in the race when the engine in his No. 64 super late model owned by Jim McCoy expired, preventing the team from racing for the $10,000 top prize that was eventually claimed by Wayne Anderson.
“I think we were up to second or third. It was only lap 10 of the race and we blew the motor,” said Staropoli, who works as an eye surgeon when he’s not driving race cars. “I felt really good about our chances last year. I thought pretty early in the race we got ahead of a lot of the guys I was worried about beating.
“You never know how the race is going to play out and all kinds of crazy stuff happens later. I thought we had a good shot last year and it kind of slipped through our fingers.”
If the name Staropoli sounds familiar, it’s because the 29-year-old Florida resident made headlines by winning the PEAK Challenge in 2013. He became a Michael Waltrip Racing development driver as a result and scored a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory in 2014 at California’s Irwindale Speedway.
These days Staropoli, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Miami Medical School, is focused mostly on his day job as an eye surgeon. He still gets out to race from time to time and he’s looking forward to the opportunity to race against some of the region’s best late model drivers - including national touring stars like Stephen Nasse and Jeff Choquette - on Saturday night.
Choquette is the defending Winchester 400 winner at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and Nasse recently won a pair of late model races in consecutive days at Winchester.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Staropoli said. “Obviously Nasse and Choquette both started out down here and ran in Florida a lot. They’ve had a lot of success here recently. Nasse went up and crushed them at Winchester. That’s pretty cool. It’s always fun whenever you have a big team come rolling in and you’ve got to defend your home turf.
“It’s good to show what you’ve got against those bigger teams.”
Staropoli believes he’ll have something for the field in Saturday’s 100-lap event. He and his Shadow Graphics and Naked Warrior Project-backed team won the season opener at Citrus County in February, which gives Staropoli confidence heading into Saturday.
“We’ve had a good amount of success there already this year,” Staropoli said. “We won the first race out of the box. It’s been a couple of months, the last time we ran there was back in April. We’re kind of coming out of a short little summer break. I think the car will be under us and we’ve got a chance to take home that big payday.
“A big race like this, you do it for the trophy, but a payday like this helps a small team like ours keep making more races and keep improving the car.”
The event is being broadcast by Pit Row TV, part of the SPEED SPORT Network. It's also included as a bonus race for CARS Tour TV subscribers. Visit www.pitrow.tv to watch the event live.