Digging Deep With Denise: Visiting With Dylan Kopec

“Digging Deep With Denise” is a semi-regular question and answer feature with local racers and racing personalities produced by RaceDayCT’s Denise DuPont

Dylan Kopek (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

Dylan Kopec – Racing is in my blood … 

On Friday, June 25th, Dylan Kopec won his first 2021 heat race back in the seat of the No. 16 SK Modified at Stafford Speedway.

“I had a seven car lengths lead over the field and my spotter kept telling me to back it down but it was the first time that I have led in a while, I just could not do it. The car is the best that it has been in a while. I liked the car setup today even though it is not what I am used to. It is something new that we have been trying over the last couple of weeks and struggling with. Today we may have fine-tuned and found out what we liked.”

Mike Christopher, Jr. though, raced to the front to win the NAPA SK 5K $5,000 to win race. Kopec finished the race eleventh after starting 14th. 

What made you get interested in racing?

“My dad of course. It had been my dad, me and Todd. Todd [Douillard] is like my brother. So it is the three of us and racing.”

Chris Kopec introduced both of his children to racing through running go-karts. His daughter Melissa made her decision in her first ride that racing was not for her. After a few laps on the go-kart track she parked the car and in tears said she did not want to drive. Dylan on the other hand jumped in the seat ready to drive.

”I wanted to be like my dad. Growing up he was my role model. We had matching fire suit, me in my Tiger Cubs at Stafford and him in the Whelen Modified Tour. We had the same looking cars and everything which was pretty cool. I definitely want to race, I did not know for how long I would do it but I definitely wanted to do it.”

Which type of racing do you like the best?

“Competition wise I like the SK Modifieds are the best, there is nothing that beats them here [at Stafford Speedway]. When I run here I run with a lot of people from the tour series. My first few weeks out I had no expectations on how it was going to be and I was just blow out of the water on how crazy everything goes when the green flag is thrown. It is definitely an eye awakener.

“Fun wise, I love the SK Light. I would go back in the SK Light any single day and go run. They are just fun to drive. The SK Mods are much more challenging than the SK Lights.”

Would you say racing is your hobby?

“I would like to call it a hobby but it is almost like a full time job sometimes. I go to work and then go work on the car. I wake up go to work and do it again. Over and over again at the race shop. I do consider it a hobby because it is something that I enjoy. Me and my dad and the crew, we are like family. During the week we are in the shop until 11:30 pm to midnight at night and I do not mind. We are all there together and busting one another’s chops. We came back to SK [Modified] racing mainly because last year I ran Todd’s car [SK Light Modified] at Stafford weekly. It has been fun getting back into that weekly scene again. I am enjoying being back at Stafford on a Friday with everyone in a good mood. We had to do it again.” 

What is your goal for 2021?

“I would like to continue to be consistent, keep the car in one piece and set goals for top-15, top-10, and top fives and hopefully a win. I really do not expect a win this year but we will try. I feel like we are just starting over. We have a brand new car with a lot to learn. Maybe next year we will be in contention, but if [a win] happens I will take it however it is. For now I want to build a notebook on this car, make laps and make sure we can get it in the trailer in one piece so when we get back we can get it on the scale, see where we are at and work on it.”

If your spotter tells you to back it off are you going to back it off?

“I am going to back it off and listen to my spotter. As it is I was up until after 1 am on (June 25th) texting him because I did not listen during the race. I am going to listen to him, I trust him. He spots for Matt Hirschman and he wins all the time. If he tells Matt to back off, he does, he is the best at that.” 

What racing accomplishment is most memorable to date?

“The Spring Sizzler win with the SK Light in 2012. It was only the SK Light division, it was not a top tier modified win, but it stands out because I know my dad does not have a win from the Spring Sizzler. So it is the one thing that I have next to all his trophies, a nice big trophy that says Spring Sizzler Winner. So it is nice that I accomplished something that he hasn’t.”

What are the challenges as a driver on the Stafford Speedway track?

“One of the things that I find challenging now is that most of the people I compete against now are full time every week racing in, if not one division, it is two or three.  I find that challenging because I show up with only one car and for two years we only ran part time. So we did not get yet the seat time we need. Now I find myself getting all my stuff together, re-learning everything and getting back into the weekly race mode. That is my biggest challenge.”

If you had to do it all over again, would you?

“Yes, I definitely would do it all over again. I would take a different path than running go-karts all the way up to SK Lights. I struggled a lot when we moved to the SK Lights. We had people coming up from the legend cars and everybody that comes up from the Legend cars has learned great car control with those things.” 

Would you have done anything differently?

“So I definitely would have migrated to another division of racing such as a Bandolero, something that would put me on a big track instead of a small track. But other than that, I would sign right up again if I were five years old looking for something to drive.” 

Now that you are married does your wife support you with the hours and work that you have as a racer?

“Yes she does support me. She gives me a hard time sometimes though. She does not have a racing background so she does not understand how much time and effort it takes throughout the week. She understands the risk that we take every Friday night when we come out on the track. When I come home there is always dinner cooked and a smile on her face. She is always in a good mood trying to help and make it to the track after work. She is learning about racing that is for sure!”

When your dad was injured at Thompson what went through your mind about the risks when you race?

“When he was hurt I was younger and I really did not understand it. As I got older I understand it more and more. I know that there are risks in racing but I am not necessarily worried about them. I broke my wrist at Stafford Speedway and all sorts of things have happened. But every time I strap into that race car, I do not thing about it. If you think about it you are not going to be as competitive as you should be. So you create a mental block. It is just something that you do.”

Do you think that racing is in your blood?

“I think so. I have been doing it since I have been five. There has never been a time, even during our worst weeks, that I want to hang it up. I hope I never have that thought. I hope I am racing for the rest of my life. Obviously I am going to keep doing it with my dad as long as everyone keeps showing up to the shop.” 

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