Hapeman just having fun at HMS
By Tom Gillispie
At 52, Bob Hapeman is probably one of the younger drivers in the Classic Sportsman division that races at Hickory Motor Speedway and elsewhere. But he says age doesn't matter.
"It (his relative youth) doesn't matter anything; see how fast Bill Webb goes, and he's 78," Hapeman said of one of the division's race winners this year.
Hapeman was originally from Vestal, N.Y., but now lives in Midland, N.C. He says he's a heating and air conditioning contractor and manages rental property.
"I've been here since 1979," he said. "I raced motorcycles in the 1980s down here for a few years. I started racing cars around 1996. I was running Street Stock from 1996 to 1999 and ran Pro Truck through 2001 at (nearby) Concord (Motorsports Park)."
Hapeman took off from racing from 2001 to 2011. "I started a business and raised my kids," he said in explanation.
He's been racing Classic Sportsman since 2011. His first race at HMS was in 2012, when the division started racing at the track.
Before he returned to racing, he went to see his friend John Betts. Betts convinced him he ought to be racing again, and he had a racecar for him.
"He said, 'I've got something you need to take home.' It was an older car," Hapeman said.
"I went up to my engine builder, who was rebuilding a street-car engine, and came home with a racecar," he added with a laugh. That car has since been transformed into a 1968 Chevy Nova.
He won two Classic Sportsman races at Hickory in 2012 and three more last year, and he also won a 2013 race at Southern National Motorsports Park. This spring, he also won a race at Dillon (S.C.) Speedway.
"I love coming to the track (HMS)," Hapeman said. "There are good people up there, and Hickory is a great, historic track. It's a great place to be and has a great fan base. They treat us well up there."
He's one of four drivers — Webb, Bob Park and Jeff Melton are the others — to win Classic Sportsman races this year at HMS.
Hapeman is fifth in points, 38 behind leader Park, but he says that the standings don't matter to him.
"In 2012, I skipped the first race so I'd be behind and wouldn't have be in the points," he said. "I'd had a bad experience racing for points several years ago.
"Racing for points is at a whole different level, and, at our age, we don't have be there."
The division will race Saturday, with one more points race after that. Then they'll race during the Fall Brawl on Oct. 25.
"This season, we go up there and try to have a good time and to bring the car home in one piece," Hapeman said. "We had an engine problem in the first race, but otherwise we've managed to do that. We try to win every race we can, but that's our goal, to have a good time."
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