Mar 29, 2014, 3:40 PM EST
So much has been said over the years about Ryan Newman being one of the first full-fledged college graduates to race in NASCAR.
And he has the sheepskin from Purdue University, touting his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, to prove it.
But Newman may soon be knocked off his lofty educated throne.
Remember the name Patrick Staropoli – you may soon be talking about and seeing him in NASCAR’s three pro series — well, after he completes a few more years of medical school.
You see, Staropoli isn’t just a race car driver, he’s also on track to become a full-fledged MD in a few years.
You can just hear it now on the radio or TV: “And starting on the pole for the Daytona 500, Patrick – uh, err, make that Dr. Patrick Staropoli.”
That’s right, a former honors student at Harvard (where his degree is in neurobiology), Staropoli is now in his second year of medical school at the University of Miami.
But his alter-ego – “The Racing Doc” sounds good – is also coming off a great run last weekend in the K&N Pro Series West race at Irwindale Speedway, about 30 miles away from Auto Club Speedway.
Staropoli not only competed in the race, he actually won the whole darned thing, as well (see video below).
In fact, in his first season on the K&N tour, the suburban Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has finished no lower than 11th in the first four races (11th at New Smyrna, eighth at Daytona, sixth at Bristol and his March 22 cross-country triumph at Irwindale.
But perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Staropoli’s story is that he requested a semester away from school to do independent research for the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, as well as driving for Bill McAnally Racing, which is part of the Michael Waltrip Developmental Driver team.
“I shuffled everything around in my life, taking time off school,” Staropoli told NASCAR.com, which interviewed him a few days before the Irwindale event. “I subleased my apartment in Miami so I can spend time with my race team, started working on the cars and really immersed myself as much as possible.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure to perform, but I feel like whether it was interviewing for Harvard or getting into med school, or now trying to make this happen on the racing side, I’m kind of used to it and up to the challenge.”
Ever since he first started racing go-karts in 2003, Staropoli has been nothing short of outstanding. Consider his outstanding overall racing record, including karts, Cyclones, FastKids, Fasttruck, Late Models and now K&N: 34 wins, 103 top-5′s, 127 top-10′s in 143 races.
Staropoli’s big break came last year when he outdistanced more than 6,000 entries in the PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge, with the top prize being a one-race ride in a K&N Pro West Series race.
Shortly thereafter, he caught the eyes of Waltrip’s organization and Peak-sponsored Danica Patrick, which ultimately led to what has now been five K&N starts thus far in 2014 (and six overall in his career).
“PEAK thought this competition would be a cool way to meet some unique racers,” Waltrip told NASCAR.com. “I think we met one. It’s just really, really fun for me to see the results of this competition and we had a whole lot of people to chose from.
“There were four or five on the track whose skills were similar with Patrick, who was at the top of the class. But he just had something about him, just a glow, an energy, a respect and appreciation for it that made a difference for me.”
Patrick’s father Nick had a lot to do not only with his son’s decision to race, but also to become a doctor. For it was the elder Staropoli who was seriously hurt while competing himself in a crash in 2001 at Hialeah Speedway in the family’s native Florida.
Patrick, then 12 years old, saw his father’s wreck (the throttle stock on his race car, sending him head-on and full-speed into the racetrack wall). And after watching his dad go through four months of rehab, Patrick decided to become a doctor.
“I remember as a kid being in awe of the whole process,” Staropoli said. “That stayed in my mind. And now I’m at the very place learning medicine where they saved my dad’s life. Kinda weird how it’s all worked out.
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Below are videos of Staropoli’s first win last week at Irwindale, followed by winning the Peak challenge.
Nov 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST
The No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team dodged a bullet Thursday when NASCAR announced less severe than expected penalties for unapproved rear suspension parts found last weekend at Homestead.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:24 PM EST
All the latest from the ground in Abu Dhabi from NBCSN’s Will Buxton in this week’s “Paddock Pass.”
Nov 20, 2014, 4:18 PM EST
TV times, title outlooks for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Big night of F1 on NBC from 7 p.m. ET.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:09 PM EST
If you like wild, crazy and unpredictable, you won’t want to miss Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, airing LIVE at 5 pm ET on NBCSN.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:31 PM EST
In this edition of NASCAR Minute, Rick Allen and Kyle Petty talk about the wackiest things they saw this race season.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
After his departure from Ferrari was announced today, Alonso drops the biggest hint yet that he will be driving for McLaren in 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:21 PM EST
What would the final 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings look like if there had been no Chase format? Would Kevin Harvick still have finished No. 1? You might be surprised.
Nov 20, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
New paint scheme for Danica Patrick’s No. 10 in 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Gunning for his second world championship, Hamilton can be sure of the title by finishing second in Abu Dhabi – but will the pressure get to him?
Nov 20, 2014, 11:35 AM EST
How will Will Stevens’ debut go? He’s in a rare spot, making an in-season debut.
Nov 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
A few little things to look out for during this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:45 AM EST
Kasey Kahne’s arrival shouldn’t change the arrival of Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports, but it may change the date.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Mexican driver admits trying to take a step down out of a race seat for 2015 is a risk, but feels it is the best move for his future.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Matthew Brabham replaces Charles Pic in FE this weekend.
With Vettel, Alonso, Mercedes and Renault all on the move, Abu Dhabi will mark the end of an era in F1
Nov 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus will be very different teams in 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
Kasey Kahne re-ups with Hendrick for three more years.
Nov 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Mexican driver all but certain to stay with Force India for 2015, with the finer details of his contract being ironed.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
FIA F3 champion Ocon will run for Lotus in FP1 on Friday at Yas Marina; Fong will take part for Sauber.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
The MST writing team makes its final predictions of the 2014 F1 season – will it be Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg who is crowned champion in Abu Dhabi?
Video from NASCAR America
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