After racking up wins in the Super Stock division at Delaware Speedway, Darrell Lake will be making the step up to the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario Tour in 2019.
“Heading into the season I’m certainty nervous,” he admitted to SHORT TRACK MUSINGS. “I have NO seat time in a late model at all. Fortunately, I do have a race under my belt in a super late model, which was a great experience, even though we didn’t get to finish that race from a mechanical failure.
“For me, it’s going to be all about getting seat time and getting comfortable, finding the limits and figuring out what each adjustment feels like as it translates to on track feel.”
The decision to move into the APC Series was an easy choice for Lake, in seeing the growth the Pro Late Model division has experienced over the past couple years.
“I am the type of driver where I enjoy rubbing fenders and a textbook bump and run are fair game; it’s short track racing after all,” he said. “However, the last couple of years in super stocks, it’s been no secret I haven’t been having much fun as the racing and overall attitude on and off the track has been plain disrespectful. We all work way too hard to make the cars presentable and turn the corners to race that way, and frankly, I was tired of it and needed to move on.
“APC Series carries a level of professionalism and seriousness that fits with myself and my team appropriately. It’s fun but competitive. You need to be on your A-game every lap of every race to be up front.”
Knowing the level of competition he is up against and the fact he enters the year without any seat time, he is hoping to be a top-10 contender across the province.
“I know a lot of new cars are coming into the class this year as well as A LOT of new cars being built,” he commented. “Everyone is bringing top notch equipment and it’s going to be an uphill battle. With longer races than I’m used to, I will have a lot of learning to do with understanding how to better manage a race for the long haul, over the shorter 25-50 lap races I am accustomed to.”
As noted, the competition level of APC is at an all-time high with returning champions and race winners, including J.R. Fitzpatrick, Andrew Gresel, and Jake Sheridan, among the several others.
“They know their stuff and they all can wheel a car, no doubt about it,” Lake commented. “They have all figured out how to finish these races and are running up front at the end more often than not. For me, getting all the laps in and finishing every race is obviously crucial to development and becoming a contender and not just a car in the field. Nothing pays dividends like race condition learning experience. Everyone out there can turn a fast lap on their own, not everyone understands setting up a pass and working through the field with a fast car.
“Late model racing as a whole in Ontario is interesting this year. It’s a mix of a lot of guys moving into brand new equipment and selling off their good used stuff. There’s years and years of experience, and some with no late model experience and some with no racing experience at all. It’s certainly going to be a trying time as people learn what these cars are capable of as well as what the drivers are capable of.
“As racers I know first hand, the competitive nature trumps the common sense behavior and often leads to rookie mistakes. I just hope my experience has taught me enough to overcome those types of mistakes and get through each race unscathed.”
The APC Series schedule will be hitting five different tracks across the province for 10 races, including a pair of events at Jukasa Motor Speedway.
“Well, I think everybody and their brother are excited about Jukasa,” Lake said. “It’s such a premier facility that you always look forward to getting the chance to race there. I have always enjoyed my time at Sauble (Speedway) as well. It’s tighter, but can be racey.
“I do look forward to the opportunity to race at my home track (Delaware Speedway) as well. It’s a stones throw from my house and I feel like we can run strong there as it can be fairly technical so laps there will work to our advantage.”
Alternatively, Flamboro Speedway and Sunset Speedway bring up some butterflies, based on past race experience.
“I’ve never quite got the rhythm of how to race at Sunset, but I have only been there once to race,” he said. “So I know it’s going to be a struggle for me there. Flamboro is also challenging in that for some reason; it always gets rough racing there, no matter what level you are at. It really seems to bring out the bullring mentality for whatever reason. But I do have family up that way that are excited to come see us race at this level up there and I have a two-time winning car, so it falls on me to perform to that level.”
For Lake, he has been surrounded by racing his entire life, named after Darrell Waltrip with his birth announcement racing-themed.
“I was driving a go-kart and parking lots at the age of 5, racing by the time I was 9 and realized I was in the street stocks which evolved to super stock for 14 years, not the 12 I had initially thought,” he commented. “Genuinely, racing is in my blood. I may be able to fall asleep in the car on pit road before the race, but it’s my own way of getting focused and mentally prepared for each race before they actually begin. I am extremely fortunate to have parents that love racing as much as we do and allowed me that freedom growing up. I think starting racing young helps develop a driver and a person faster. You mature quicker and learn responsibility from a young age.
“I wouldn’t give up racing for anything. It’s a family sport, heck my dad and wife make up half my pitcrew and a lot of my closest friends I met have been through racing. It’s such a small but tight community, I would recommend any young person to get involved in it young and put your heart and soul into it, because it pays off.”
Through the years, there’s been several moments that stand out for Lake’s career. However, the most memorable would be his first career Street Stock victory.
“That moment of fending off Dan Monaghan for 25 laps, making no mistakes and coming to receive the checkered flag and seeing the pure joy and excitement from my team I can never forget,” he commented. “It’s what drives me to keep going out and keep winning. Especially now, when it could be years before my next win, we are prepared to work our heart out for that moment once again at this level.”