The 2013 racing season is starting off pretty much as usual for Canajoharie's Dave Lape.
As he has in past years, the seven-time Fonda Speedway modified track champion greeted fans and posed for pictures Saturday at the annual Fonda Speedway Car Show at the Rotterdam Square Mall.
The difference is this year's show kicks off the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame driver's 50th and final season of competition on the Northeast dirt tracks.
Seven-time Fonda Speedway modified track champion Dave Lape poses with his ride for the 2013 season at the Track of Champions’ annual car show Saturday at the Rotterdam Square Mall. The show continues today. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
"I have planned this for three or four years now," the 66-year-old Lape said. "We all talked it over and I said listen, 50 years is enough. Matt [Noles] and Pat [Riley] said if that is what you want to do we will keep you going."
The famed No. 22 will have a slightly different look this season, mixing the old with the new.
"Well I got to say a lot of it was Matt. He wanted to do something different," Lape said. "We ran a black body a couple years ago and that was his idea. We said we couldn't do that because we just did it. We thought back and decided red."
The DIRT Hall of Famer drove a red car at Weedsport when he first teamed up with Fred Burrows. Lape also was driving a black-bodied modified at that time at Fonda Speedway for R.C. Putnam.
"To tell you the truth, red has always been my favorite color for a race car," Lape said. "When I was eight- or nine-years-old, my father would take me to watch sprint cars. I saw a red sprint car with gold leaf numbers on it. I never forgot it. I always liked red. So we talked it over and went with that."
The car will sport gold-leaf numbers in a 13-point flame and the body design also brings back a rear window design from Lape's years as a chassis fabricator with his successful ChampCar.
"The flame is from back to the design we had before," he said. "About 10 years ago we had a guy letter the car in Weedsport and he kind of changed things. Since then we haven't had this old flame so we thought it was probably a good idea to change that back too."
In his previous 49 seasons at Fonda Speedway, Lape has accumulated 99 modified feature wins, third on the Track of Champions all-time win list behind Jack Johnson (149) and Lou Lazzaro (113). He also locked up Fonda Speedway track championships in 1983, '86, '87, 91, 92, 2003 and 2004. He is the only driver to claim feature wins at Fonda in five decades with his first win coming in 1969 and his 99th on Aug. 21, 2004.
Looking ahead at the season, Lape said the first night will be, "Business as usual. The last night will be different, there is no doubt. We do have a race at Malta and a a Dave Lape tribute Utica Rome. If everything goes good, it will be fine. But you know anything can happen in racing."
Fonda Speedway will host its Dave Lape Tribute to 50 Years of Racing night on Sept. 17.
"We will take it in stride and do our best to say thank you. to everyone," he said. "We are going to try to have our old car owners come. We just want to have all the old people back. I really haven't had that many car owners only maybe five or six. Hopefully we can bring them back and have a good time.
"You can't do without your friends in the racing community," Lape said. "You have to rely on people that are giving their time for nothing. If it wasn't for those kind of people you can't do it. I was lucky to have guys like Mike Buanno, Dave Delaney and Cliffy [Cliff Montaney] among a lot of people who have helped me over the years."
When asked if he thought he would be racing 50 years when he started in 1963, Lape said, "No. You just keep going and you love it so much in the beginning you say to yourself 'If I could just make a few bucks at doing this.' That was a goal back then - get so we could race and not work. That worked out pretty good and I just kept going."
Lape said he is not sure what will happen when the checkered flag drops on the final race of the season,
"I don't think I am going to go to the races," he said. "I have a house to take care of and it isn't easy doing that anymore either; just like racing. We talked this over and will see how this year goes but we might keep the car going. For one or two shows a year we will get somebody we know to race it just to keep it going. Once or twice a year we can all afford that.
"I have worked on racecars all my life and that is not going to change even if I am not driving," Lape said. "I really can't go to the races and watch. If you are not racing or involved with somebody it is hard. But we will see, in racing everything changes."