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Grand Forks driver to race in NASCAR Truck Series

GRAND FORKS – Dustin Hapka didn’t plan it this way when he started racing, but the Grand Forks driver’s career has gone from the quarter-mile dirt bullring at River Cities Speedway to the Iowa Speedway, where he’ll race next week in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

From weekly dirt shows to NASCAR, it’s quite the jump for Hapka – one that has developed over the past two years.

And he can’t wait to jump in the No. 74 truck July 11 in Newton, Iowa, for the American Ethanol 200.

“When I started racing on dirt, I never had any goals to get to this level,” said Hapka. “This wasn’t part of my original plans, but a couple of years ago I realized this would be within reach.”

Hapka said he plans to run three truck races this season, with the next one possibly coming at Bristol, Tenn., in August.

A team forms

Plans to compete on one of the NASCAR circuits began four years ago when Hapka drove a midget car for Chad Frewaldt in the Chili Bowl.

The two eventually partnered to form a truck team.

“This has been a long time in the making,” said Hapka. “Chad and I basically joined forces and formed a partnership to make this happen. Basically, it’s two guys with the same goals that couldn’t do it alone, but together can make it happen.”

After racing a late model at RCS, Hapka spent a year on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series before racing a couple ARCA races two years ago.

Hapka hasn’t raced since those ARCA races.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in the seat of a stock car, but it takes time to get a deal like this together,” said Hapka.

At the Iowa Speedway, Hapka will have a six-man pit crew and a spotter. His crew chief will be Rob White, who has been a crew chief in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Short, but fast

Earlier this week, Hapka said NASCAR gave him approval to race on tracks under a mile in length. The Iowa Speedway and Bristol are each considered short tracks by NASCAR.

Speeds, however, at the Iowa Speedway range between 135 mph and 150 mph for the trucks.

“We chose the Iowa Speedway to make my debut because of the size and shape of the track,” said Hapka. “I’m used to that. We thought that would be a good track in which to get my feet wet.”

Early next week, Hapka said he’ll test the truck at a track in Kansas.

Race day in Iowa will be hectic. There are two practice sessions and qualifying before the drop of the green flag.

“I’m not really looking to make this a full-time gig because of family and my business. But we’ll get through this first race and see what happens.”