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UM medical student wins first career NASCAR race

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Patrick Staropoli’s NASCAR dream keeps getting better and better.

In just his sixth career start, Staropoli, 24, took the checkered flag in the NAPA Auto Parts 150 for his first career NASCAR win last Saturday night in Irwindale, California for Bill McAnally Racing.

“I don’t even have the words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” said Staropoli, of Plantation, Fla. “There’s just a lot of excitement and adrenaline flowing through, knowing that this was something I wanted for so long and I was finally able to accomplish it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Staropoli opted to fallback early in the race in order to conserve his tires and dropped as far back as 13th before he made his move to the front. Two late-race cautions allowed him to move from fourth to first and he finally took the lead on a Lap 137 restart. His No. 99 PEAK Toyota Camry never looked back, winning by a margin of 1.551 seconds.

“The final 15 laps felt like they lasted 15 hours,” Staropoli said. “I never had to run a race like that before. It was a game of tire conservation and laying back and knowing when to fire. When we did, the car was good enough to cut right up through the field. We had an awesome battle coming up through there for the lead.”

The NASCAR rookie has now posted five top ten finishes in his six starts while finishing 11th in the other. Saturday’s victory is just another accomplishment for Staropoli, who graduated from Harvard University and is currently enrolled at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“I have never seen Bill McAnally smile that big the entire time I’ve known him,” Staropoli said. “I really needed a win in these five races to substantiate myself as a competitor and to help attract more partners to our program so we can keep this dream alive and continue racing the second half of the season. So much has happened in just these couple of months. We’ve made huge gains despite limited practice and testing time. To go from 11th in our debut to consistent top-tens to actually winning a race is huge. It says a lot about our ability to adapt as a race team and my crew being able to give me the feel that I need in the racecar.”

Staropoli’s next race is May 17th at Iowa Speedway. He began the season by running the first three races in the K&N East Series before racing in Irwindale in his first K&N West start of the year.

Before Saturday, Staropoli was fourth overall in the K&N East championship standings, only 11 points out of the lead, and second overall in the rookie standings. His rankings dropped by racing out West this past weekend, but Staropoli seems more than happy to be sitting at home with some new hardware.

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