When Charlie DiPasquale was a biology major at Xavier in the late 1960s, he loved sports cars and dreamed of owning a flashy set of wheels. He used to go to an old Jaguar dealership and gape at the sleek coupes on the lot.
If only he could have seen himself now, in fire suit and helmet, pushing a race car around a track at 150 miles per hour. The young DiPasquale would be well pleased.
The dream may never have come to be had DiPasquale not signed himself and a buddy up for a three-day racing course at a Mansfield, Ohio, speedway. His friend bailed at the last minute, so DiPasquale went alone, and spent a long weekend taking laps at 100 mph in a tricked-out racer. “I did it as a lark,” he says. “But I got hooked on it, it was so much fun. It’s an addicting thing.”
That was 10 years ago. Now DiPasquale, who has been a dentist in Centerville, Ohio, for the past 35 years, is even more invested. He’s a member of the Sports Car Club of America and has his own car, an open-cockpit sport prototype with a 1,000cc engine, that he races in the series’ amateur division. DiPasquale competes in three races each summer. He takes every one seriously, studying videos of his performance to improve his times.
“I like the fact that it trains you to be concentrated and focused,” he says. “It’s just so hard to do and do it right. It’s pretty dangerous, and it keeps you alert.”
All those faculties came into play on the racetrack three years ago when DiPasquale was on the heels of the lead car. It slammed on its brakes, sending DiPasquale skidding into the grass.
“I looked down and my whole cockpit was on fire,” he says. “I don’t know how I got out, but I flew out of that car upside down.” Fortunately, a fireman was on hand to douse the flames, and DiPasquale escaped without serious injury.
While “pretty hairy,” the accident hasn’t deterred the dentist from racing. “It didn’t take long to get over that,” he says. “If you’re worried about that all the time, you have to quit.”