Veteran racer has made many sacrifices to race

Sunday, June 14, 2009 | 7:53 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Fair Grove resident Dale Roper has been driving in circles around southwestern Missouri tracks for more than four decades.

The 72-year-old has raced at Ozarks-area speedways since 1965 and was a track champion at Bolivar Speedway in 2002.

The roof of his car has "Racing in Memory of Dean and Tony Roper" painted on top. His son, Tony, died in 2000 in an accident at a truck race at Texas Motor Speedway. His older brother, Dean, won several United States Auto Club championships before he died after a heart attack while driving in 2001.

Racing is his way of keeping their memories alive, he said.

A retired mail carrier, Roper says he still enjoys racing but doesn't have the same passion for working on the cars.

"I'm not going to do it too much longer," Roper said recently after a fourth-place finish at Bolivar Speedway. "I can still get it done. But I don't like to work on (the car) like I used to. I used to piddle with them in the shop."

He's also won seven track championships in a 44-year career include two at Boliver, four at the Lebanon I-44 Speedway and one at the old Waynesville Speedway.

Still, he calls himself a "hobby racer."

"He's much more than that," Lebanon modified driver Brian Brown said. "I don't care how old he is, he's still no slouch."

Roper admits that he's driven with more caution since "tearing one up pretty good" last year at Bolivar.

"He's 72, so he's slowed up some," said son Dale Roper Jr., himself a driver in the late model division at Bolivar. "He's not as aggressive as he used to be."

Roper also attends at least six NASCAR Sprint Cut Series races a year.


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