Like many young racers in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, newly crowned Pro Buggy Rookie of the Year Zachary Drapkin began his journey in short course off road in the ultra competitive Mod Kart class. Soon enough, the Lake Forest, California, native made the transition into full size vehicles, electing to take the next step in his career by driving a Pro Buggy. The light and nimble cars have long been one of the cornerstones of short course off road, and the division is consistently one of the most hotly contested in the entire series.
In an effort to make a more natural progression into the elite level of Pro Buggy, Drapkin and his Drapkin Racing team elected to focus on the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Series, where Drapkin was an immediate front-runner. Over the course of two seasons, Drapkin earned back-to-back runner-up results in the regional championship and decided to make the leap to full time Pro Buggy competition in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series for the 2019 season. A solid first year resulted with a best finish of fifth, and a seventh place finish in the final standings, in which Drapkin was right on the heels of the cream of the crop in the Pro Buggy class.
With a season under his belt and a boost of confidence from his Rookie of the Yeat accolade, the 19 year old has his sights set on enhanced Pro Buggy success for the 2020 season, while also continuing to balance his higher education studies in veterinary medicine at Irvine Valley College.
How would you summarize your first full season of national level competition in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series?
I feel like my first season was a pretty good one. I was super pumped to be able to keep up with the guys at the top of the class. Before I’ve been in just the Mod Kart class really, and everybody was so advanced. The Pro Buggy class is also super competitive, so it felt good to fit in.
How does it feel to be named Rookie-of-the-Year in the Pro Buggy class? Was that one of your goals last season?
I was super pumped to find out in the middle of the 2019 season that I was in the running for Rookie-of- the-Year. I’ve never really gotten an award like this, so I’m just super excited to find out and be known for it. Our goals for the season were really just to finish the season out strong and just to get a good feeling of driving the buggy, because it’s really different compared to everything else we’ve driven.
What would you say was the biggest lesson you learned during your rookie season, and what was the toughest challenge you faced?
I would say the biggest lesson I learned is that I need to stay consistent, because without consistency I probably wouldn’t have been able to get Rookie of the Year. The toughest challenge was just getting to drive. A lot of things were mental, so I struggled a little bit, because I got hit a couple times and that was kind of a learning curve, just getting punted around. So there was a learning curve in having to get control of the car.
You’re also going to college full time in addition to racing. How do you find the balance between your studies and driving?
I find the biggest balance between studying and driving is that I have to work really hard during the week, because I’m trying to keep up my grades to stay in college, so I can focus on that. Later in life I can focus on racing, but racing is a good balance for my school and my family. We can take time during the weekend to go out and race, and it’s not all about my studies. It feels good, because I know I can do it all.
What are your goals for the 2020 season, and what are your long term goals in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series?
I feel like my overall goal for the 2020 season is that I hope we can actually wrap up a championship. We’ve had it close two times in the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Series, and got it taken away towards the end of the season, so I’m hoping we can finish off the 2020 season in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series strong and get a championship. With the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series as a whole, I really hope to one day to race Pro 2, but at the moment, with my school, I think we’re going to stay in Pro Buggy for a little bit. We want this class to grow. It’s such a fun class. Hopefully we can get the class to where we have 20 or 30 cars in the field.
Who would you like to thank for all the support you received this season?
I want to thank Fabtech, owner April Winner, and their whole family. They’ve been a really big help for me. Red Line Oil, they’ve been with my team for the past five years, and we finished almost every race this season. The only races we didn’t finish, it was my fault. I want to thank Jerrod Wedell at Competitive Edge, because he also fixed the car at Round 7 at Glen Helen when I didn’t think we were going to finish off the season after a crash. I want to thank Timmy Cecil at Signpros, Dave Folts’ transaxles, Skydive Elsinore, AG Sand Cars, and OMF and Big O Tires. Lastly, I want to thank my mom and dad, and my brother.