Gasper takes the wheel from Dad to become auto racing champion
David Gasper was cheering at the finish line when his dad won the 2007 Baja 1000, but what he really wanted was to ride shotgun.
“They wouldn’t let me go with him,” he said.
He was, after all, only 2 years old at the time.
But David and Dad — Big Dave, as mom Melinda likes to call him — are now making major inroads together.
Gasper, now 15, was crowned Rookie Driver of the Year in the Modified Kart class of the 2020 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series after finishing third in the series standings.
“I was actually just hoping for a top-five finish when I started,” he told the News-Press. “Some of these other guys have been doing it for five years, and I’m still learning about this class.”
He has a good teacher by his side throughout part of the day. Gasper, a sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School, likes to join his father at his shop as soon as his online courses end at 3 p.m.
“We’ll work together in the garage about 200 hours a season, making sure the car is running smoothly for the next race,” he said. “My dad has taught me everything I know, not only about driving but also about working on cars.
“Knowing how the car works is a big part of racing.”
Gasper, the youngest of three siblings, was 4 when his father bought him his first go-kart.
“I was driving that thing around the neighborhood all the time — and just loved it,” he said. “He never told me, ‘Hey, I want you to be doing this.’ I just had a passion for it.”
He was 7 when he entered his first race. He made the leap in classifications from engines with 20 horsepower to 60 horsepower at the end of last season.
“I was pretty nervous at first, for sure,” Gasper said. “It’s a big difference for a young guy to go from 40 mph to 75 mph.
“These guys drive hard — and with a lot of bumping and banging. I had to keep that from getting into my head and worrying about it too much.”
He emerged unscathed from a crash last July at San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Raceway.
“I flipped five times off a 20-foot jump, but I was fine,” he said. “The car wasn’t in too good of shape, but we got it fixed.”
Gasper persevered on a circuit that took him to raceways as far away as Wheatland, Mo.; Chandler, Mo., and Reno, Nev.
“The traveling is fun,” he said. “It was just me and Dad when we drove the truck and trailer to Missouri. It’s cool spending all those hours on the road together and then meeting up with all the different race teams.
“The Kittles really help us. Kittle Motorsports is a sponsor, and they drive us to all the races in their semi. That’s a big help.”
The Gaspers are looking for other sponsors for next season.
They began climbing up the series standings after finishing second in a pair of races, and then winning last month’s Super Clean Duel in the Desert at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler.
Their second spin around Glen Helen Raceway, meanwhile, produced another victory nearly two weeks ago — three months after his crash there.
“Not only did my driving get better, but I think the car got better, too,” Gasper said. “I was learning from other drivers. We started to nail the setup and perfect things toward the end of the season.”
Next season won’t start until March, but father and son have already started preparations.
“We pulled the whole car apart to make sure it’ll all be perfect and ready to race,” David said.
His father and uncle Bill made names for themselves as a racing team on the SCORE International circuit more than a decade ago. David would like to establish a career of his own in auto racing.
“I think I just passed up my dad in the number trophies,” he said. “He might have more championships than me right now, but I think I have more podium finishes.”
And he still has miles to go before he rests.