Dylan Lupton has earned some time away from racetracks.
The 21-year-old Wilton native returned home this week after working with the Athenian Motor Sports team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and appearing in two races on NASCAR’s version of Triple-A baseball. He will get back behind the wheel June 20 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Lupton would return as a member of the 2015 NASCAR Next class. The program spotlights rising stars and boosts fan recognition for drivers the organization hopes will grow into NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers.
Lupton competed on the K&N Pro Series West circuit the past two years and finished second in the points chase. Other than win the championship, Lupton accomplished everything he could in the K&N West Series, including becoming the only driver with top-10 finishes in the last 14 races of the season. He was also the K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year in 2013.
“Being a member of NASCAR Next for a second year is such a huge honor,” Lupton said. “I’ve made a lot of great relationships with team owners, the media and all of this has helped propel me into the XFINITY Series. NASCAR is on my side and that’s pretty cool.”
Lupton is joined in the 2015 NASCAR Next group by Northern California racers Rico Abreu and James Bickford. Abreu, 23, is from Rutherford and Bickford is just 17. Cole Custer is from Ladera Ranch, just south of Mission Viejo, which makes for a quarter of the Next drivers hailing from the Golden State.
Lupton signed a seven-race deal with Concord, N.C.-based Athenian Motor Sports before the start of the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series season. In two previous starts, he finished 19th at Phoenix International Raceway and 28th at Richmond International Raceway.
“Phoenix went well and I brought back a clean car,” said Lupton, who just finished his junior year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “At Richmond, I just couldn’t get a good feel for the car, but it’s been great to race against the best drivers in the country. With Athenian, we’re all learning together.”
Lupton said he’s proud of the strides the California drivers have made in the sport. With Jeff Gordon (Vallejo) retiring after this season and Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson continuing his NASCAR ascendance, Lupton, Bickford and Abreu look to follow in their tire tracks.
“You look at the (Sprint) Cup Series and about 25 percent of the drivers are from California now,” Lupton said. “And 25 percent of the NASCAR Next class has California drivers, too. That’s pretty cool.”
Go big or go home
The Dirt Diggers North motorcycle club may have taken their name to heart just a tad too much when it created the largest jump in the Hangtown Motocross Classic’s 47-year history for Saturday’s race at Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area.
Pro riders will have to clear a massive 150-foot-wide, 35-foot-high jump that will likely be the centerpiece of what is always a tough course near Rancho Cordova, south of Highway 50.
For more information, go to www.hangtownmx.com.
The Fast Fridays speedway motorcycle season kicked off last week with Broc Nicol taking the handicap main event and Brian Yarrow taking the scratch main.
Each year, some of the world’s best speedway motorcycle riders come to Auburn’s Gold Country Fairgrounds to battle against plenty of local talent. The always-exciting extreme sidecars return June 12.
For more information, go to www.fastfridays.com.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.