Lupton is West Rookie of Year

Dylan Lupton finally gets a weekend off from his driving duties. But the 19-year-old Wilton native and Charlotte, N.C., transplant won’t be hanging out with his University of North Carolina Charlotte classmates or taking in a football game on campus.

So what does the newly crowned NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year do with all this free time? He races.

“A bunch of friends from school and racing are going to nearby Mooresville to race go-karts,” Lupton said. “A lot of NASCAR drivers like to go there to unwind and have fun racing karts. Plus, the football team’s last home game was last weekend so that’s out. I was in Phoenix for our last home game.”

The karting track is co-owned by Rocklin’s Justin Marks, who also maintains a home near Charlotte.

Lupton is a sophomore business major with a 3.3 grade-point average. He’s carrying 16 units this semester, including economics and statistics classes. During the racing season, he flies back to California early Thursday mornings or meets his team wherever the series takes it. By Sunday evening, he’s back in North Carolina.

“I’ve got well over 100,000 air miles built up,” Lupton said. “One good thing about all that flying is it’s a perfect time to do some homework.”

Lupton just completed his first season of full-time racing in the series that’s the NASCAR equivalent of Class-A baseball. Not only did he clinch rookie of the year Oct. 26 at Kern County Raceway, the second-to-last race of the season, but he finished fifth in the season point standings and had a win Aug. 17 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. Sunrise Ford teammate Derek Thorn won the series title.

It was quite a season for Lupton, who a little more than two years ago was still racing karts and late models in small, local series while attending Pleasant Grove High School.

He finally has a little time to reflect on his accomplishments and focus on building on the momentum.

“Before the season, my goals were to win rookie of the year, finish in the top five in points and win once or twice,” Lupton said. “My expectations were right on. And while I have a couple of months off from racing each weekend, we’ll still do a lot of testing and practice out here and get ready for next season. I want to be right where Derek (Thorn) was this season.”

Lupton said he has secured another ride with Sunrise Ford. His father, Ken, owns an excavating business in south Sacramento and has been one of Dylan’s main sponsors throughout his career. The Luptons said they are working on securing much larger businesses to support Dylan’s rise through the NASCAR ranks.

“We’re working on a big program next year, and the goal for next season is to race another year in the (K&N Pro Series) West with Sunrise Ford and four or five (NASCAR Camping World) Truck and (NASCAR) Nationwide events,” Ken Lupton said. “Dylan can do it. He is a much different and better driver now than he was when he started this past season.”

Larson buys a WoO team – Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson has already spent much of his salary earned as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing on buying a sprint car team to battle on the World of Outlaws circuit in 2014.

Larson and Marks, a former NASCAR driver, have started Larson Marks Racing with Shane Stewart of Avon, Ind., behind the wheel. Marks spent his teenage years in Los Altos and has a home in Rocklin. He was a teammate of Sacramento driver Joey Hand in the Rolex Sports Car Series and won the GT division of the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Larson told USA Today. “It’s always been kind of one of my main goals in racing – to make it and then kind of give back to dirt racing. It’s going to be really exciting. It’s something I’ve never been a part of. I’ve always just been a driver. So we’ll try to make it a winning team.”

Larson did leave open the possibility that he may use an off day from the Sprint Cup to drive the sprint car. But days off are few and far between with testing, practice and sponsorship duties.