In the midst of the pit area in the middle of the track at Riverhead Raceway sits a bright orange No. 63 car. Prior to this year, success was limited for the young driver behind its wheel. However, determination has paid off for Dylan Slepian, a driver in the Legends car division at Long Island’s only racetrack.
The 20-year-old Stony Brook University student had never won a race prior to 2015. But during the offseason, Slepian’s car saw a complete makeover, from refreshing the motor to adding better parts to give it the best chance to succeed. In May, his luck changed and entered Victory Lane for the first time in his career.
“I had to sit back and watch my buddies do it for about two to three years before me and I was always the back marker,” said Slepian. “This winter, we really put everything into it. It’s paying off and it’s great being able to get on a roll like this and I hope it doesn’t stop.”
It was not until 2010 that Slepian first stepped behind the seat of a race car. Growing up, he had shown an interest in racing, but it did not turn into anything major until he turned 15.
Using iRacing – a video game that the majority of professional NASCAR drivers use to practice for the real-life experience – to get a feel for racing, Slepian caught the attention of his parents. Since then, his career his excelled and the friendships he has made from racing at Riverhead have provided a blueprint for his future.
“I’m a first-generation driver,” Slepian said. “My friend’s father drove racecars, and when they saw Kyle [Soper] was interested in racing, they said let’s put him in a go kart. For me, my parents didn’t really get that. By the time they decided to go real-world racing, I was already 14. We decided to jump right into the Legends car in 2010.”
Soper had been racing for quite a while before he jumped into the Legends division, unlike Slepian. He won the track championship in 2014, and is now racing part-time in the Modified division – the top-tier at Riverhead. His other friends, Kyle Ellwood and Brendon Bock, are competing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour part-time this season, looking to make the jump to full-time competition at some point.
Without Soper’s help, along with his willingness to give Slepian a helping hand over the offseason, the Dix Hills, New York native might have continued with his winless streak.
“When he left this division, it is almost unbelievable that his father and his family have allowed me to have,” he said. “It’s unexpected and not something I had asked for. They offered and it’s really unbelievable that they helped me out as much as they have. They put the whole setup in. I built the car, gave it to them and they pretty much put a lot of the numbers in it and everything for me.”
However, like the majority of Stony Brook students, Slepian has to use his time wisely. Between racing and school, his time is limited. As an economics major in his junior year, he says that not much carries over to the racing side since it is primarily theoretical. But he is able to carry over his marketing experience after finding funding on his own for his No. 63 car.
“There is not much crossover,” Slepian said. I’ll be able to say that I put this all together and was able to manage it. I can say I have the skills to do everything and keep it running up front as well as attracting the sponsors. I know how to keep the sponsors happy and put the effort into it. I like to say that it helps a little bit.”
Making the Dean’s List exemplified Slepian’s determination to succeed. With limited time to sit back and relax, his hobby is racing on Saturday afternoons. It’s what he does and it’s essentially something that he will be slapping on his resume as he nears graduation.
With three races remaining in Riverhead’s season, Slepian leads the championship standings by 62 points ahead of Vinny Delaney. Winning six races this year, the driver with the most victories after him is Richie Davidowitz with three triumphs. If he is able to hold on for the title, he would follow in the footsteps of his best friends, the ones who helped lead him to success each weekend. At the track, they stand by his side.
“Racing is a big part of all of our lives,” Slepian said. It’s a social circle, it’s a sport, it’s something to do and it’s everything all in one. You spend a lot of money, but I’ll always have something to do as long as I’m racing.”