Racing runs in this family
Three generations of Lapcevichs, Grimsby’s first family of racing, find triumph, tragedy and adventure on the track.
Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away
For Jeff Lapcevich, racing is truly a family affair.
In fact, the 42-year-old driver of the #23 Tim Hortons-backed entry in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, which closes out the 2012 season at the Peterborough-area Kawartha Speedway late Saturday afternoon, has never known life without it.
“We’ve always been racing,” he says. “If it wasn’t cars, it was go-karts or motorcycles. I don’t remember Saturdays at the park or cutting the grass. It was always that we were off to a racetrack somewhere.”
Hailing from Grimsby, Ont., Jeff’s career spans more than 20 years and features a long list of road-racing wins capped with a championship in Grand-Am’s Grand Sport II class in 2002.
His interest in racing came from his father, who ran on dirt ovals in the Hamilton area in the 1960s and ’70s before trying out road racing in the ’80s.
For all it produced, Joe Lapcevich Sr.’s entry into the sport had simple origins.
“He had some kind of unique street car back in the ’60s,” Jeff recalls. “I can’t remember what it was, if it was the colour or something. But he got into a police chase one night. He decided he couldn’t drive the car on the street anymore, so he made a race car out of it.”
Both of Jeff’s brothers raced as well. Tragically, Joe Jr., his elder brother, lost his life in a passenger car accident 20 years ago while returning from a race out west.
Jeff’s younger brother, Jim, spent many years racing, years that included a stint as Jeff’s teammate in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. The team was managed by their father and still operates today.
“(Dad is) very involved,” Jeff says. “He does all the sponsor negotiations and stuff like that.
“For the longest time, we tried not to let him work on cars because he’s sort of dangerous when he gets tools going. But lately we had my son’s stock car down at our shop for a few nights and he put in quite a bit of time. I think he’s enjoying working on the cars again.”
A third round of Lapcevich racers is beginning to make its mark, this time Jeff’s son, Cayden, in stock car racing.
Cayden, Jeff’s eldest son at 12, got his start racing quarter midgets when he was 5. Since then, he’s won seven national championships and has moved into stock car racing at Sunset Speedway in Innisfil, Ont.
“He hasn’t won there yet, but he’s in his first year,” Jeff says. “I think the next youngest guy is 17, but most of the guys he races are my age, in their 30s and 40s, so he’s doing very well. He’s finished second twice and I think he’s had three or four other top-five finishes. He’s leading the Rookie of the Year points, and he’s really close to breaking through in the winner’s circle.”
Eight-year-old Treyten, Jeff’s middle son, is in his third year in quarter midgets.
“He won one title just this year at the (Eastern) Grands, the National Junior Stock championship. He finished second in Junior Honda at the same event, so he’s doing really well. He’s got several track records and fast qualifier awards, too.”
Ryden, Jeff’s youngest son at age 5, is just getting started in quarter midgets in the Novice division.
“He was a fast qualifier at the Western Grands and the Eastern Grands this year,” Jeff boasts. “Actually, he broke Treyten’s track record at the Eastern Grands, which was sort of fun.”
The passion for racing isn’t limited to Jeff’s immediate family, either. “My dad’s nephews have been at it,” he points out, “and his brother as well.”
It would be easy to assume that Jeff would want to slow down soon to focus on advancing his kids’ careers, but he has no such intentions.
“I’d like to run another full season (in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series),” he states. “I’ve only ever done one (in 2004) and I sort of want to do one more big final kick at the cat and see how we could do.
“I’d like to win an oval race before I quit — been second a couple of times, been third a few times, but haven’t won one yet. You’ve got to stay into it to stay competitive, and as long as I can be competitive I’ll keep racing.”
That competitive spirit has infected the next generation as well. One story about his oldest son’s tenacity stands out.
Jeff remembers an 8-year-old Cayden racing 15- and 16-year-olds in the Light Mod division. A first-timer to that class, Cayden fast-timed with a track record.
But then, a scary moment on the track: Another racer hit him from behind, sending him barrel-rolling after the left-rear tire went flat. He bounced over the fence and out of the park, landing on the hotdog stand.
“He was a little shaken up,” remembers Jeff. “He had bit his tongue and was bleeding a bit. He had won the two junior divisions that day, too, and this was his final race of the day. I said, ‘That’s good, bud. You’ve had a heck of a ride. Let’s pack it up.’ He was like, ‘No, Dad. I want to race.’”
Jeff changed the blown tire; undaunted, Cayden restarted last and won the race
With a winning past and a bright future, the Lapcevich family will be going fast for many years to come.
They give new meaning to having racing in your blood.