Derek Hopkinson is a Legends-turned-Modified driver at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey. He has spent the last few years winning races and collecting championships. Here are some insights into his racing life and his thoughts in the racecar.
What got you started in racing?
I got started in racing in 1998 when my grandfather bought a quarter midget, as he was the 1967 Wall Stadium Novice Sportsman champion, and wanted to pass his love of racing on to me.
Why asphalt racing when New Jersey is most famous for dirt racing?
I grew up racing on asphalt in the quarter midgets, and when I was making the transition out of quarter midgets we had the option of racing the Legends car at Wall Stadium or go micro sprint racing out in Pennsylvania. We felt that the unfamiliarity of dirt racing and the extra expenses in traveling was not the best way to go, so we chose to stay on asphalt closer to home with the Legends.
What were your numbers like in the Legends series?
I raced Legends from 2007 through 2012, and if I remember correctly I had 22 wins. 17 of those wins came from the 2011 and 2012 seasons, which were the two years that I was the Wall Stadium track champion for the Legends cars.
Why the switch to Wall Modifieds?
When we decided to move up from the Legends, we were originally planning to go to the Sportsman division, but after watching quite a few races and seeing that the probability of being involved in a wreck was much greater than the Modifieds, we felt that the extra expense from buying the Modified tires over the Sportsman tires would be negated by the savings from buying less parts. Plus we always knew that if we were unable to run the Modified due to the costs, we could always switch the motor and tires and drop down to the Sportsman class.
Opinions on Wall Stadium Speedway?
I really enjoy getting to race at Wall Stadium, as it is a very fast and competitive track. I think that the cars themselves are what leads to the physical contact in the upper classes, as the cars are so close on speed, and with such soft tires everyone is fast for a normal distance race. I am extremely thankful to the entire Krause family, for everything that they have done and continue to do to keep the track open for all of us to enjoy. They have made some significant improvements to the track and I cannot wait to see what the future holds with them in charge.
What has been your scariest moment in a race car?
It is tough to say what the scariest moment in a race car for me has been, but I would have to go back towards the early years of my quarter midget career when I flipped, and because of the forces I felt, I pulled a couple of muscles in my neck.
It is difficult to pin down what would be my single proudest moment in racing, but I have to go with the final points race of the 2011 season at Wall Stadium. We went into the race second in points, and the only way I could win the championship was to win the race. We came out of that race with the win, and the championship. That was our first championship in the Legends car and the feeling of everything finally coming together for that level of success was incredible.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are not entirely certain, the current plan is to continue racing the Modified as long as we can afford to, while I try to finish out my final year of college. After that I will continue to try and race as much as I can, and if things don’t work out for me to be behind the wheel, I will always continue going to the track to help the countless friends that I have made through racing.
Favorite NASCAR driver?
I like multiple drivers, but if I had to pick just one it would have to be Jeff Gordon. I have enjoyed watching him race for as long as I can remember.