Story By: MIKE WARREN / DIRTCAR – CONCORD, NC – Matt Caprara has climbed step by step in his racing career, going from Sportsman to 358 Modifeds to Big Blocks, and in 2024 he’ll make his biggest leap yet.
The 18-year-old, from Clayton, NY, is set to join the Super DIRTcar Series full time and chase the Rookie of the Year title.
Next season will be his second full-time year in a Big Block Modified after competing weekly at Brewerton Speedway and Land of Legends Raceway in 2023. In his rookie season, he earned a top five and eight top 10s between both tracks and added a DIRTcar 358 Modified win at Can-Am Speedway last May.
Caprara knew there’d be a learning curve racing a Big Block in his first year, so he kept things simple, he said.
“The first year in (Big Blocks), we knew we were going to struggle a little bit,” Caprara said. “We knew we were going to stick to our home tracks and deal with a 900-horsepower machine. It’s a whole different ballgame coming from Sportsman.”
Despite the struggles, his statistics were good enough to earn DIRTcar Big Block Modified Rookie of the Year in 2023—an award won by family members in the past.
“I was following in my brother’s footsteps,” Caprara said. “My brother Frankie got it when I was younger, and my brother Taylor got the [358 Modified] one last year. It was really cool to have all three brothers get that award. It meant a lot to us because we put a lot of hard work and time into this, and it was super cool. It was a good little boost for the end of the year and helps us going into 2024.”
Looking ahead, Caprara knows there will be challenges in his first year with the Super DIRTcar Series but is excited about how those challenges can help him grow as a driver and grow his career.
“If you want to get good and race with a (Matt) Sheppard and beat a Sheppard you have to run with this Series,” Caprara said. “That’s just how you get good, going to all of these different tracks and being versatile.”
One of the things that’ll help his versatility is that he already knows what it’s like to adapt quickly in a race car.
Dirt Modified racing isn’t the only avenue Caprara has gone down in his career. He’s made starts in SK Modifieds, the CARS Tour, and the Carolina Crate Modified Series at North Wilkesboro Speedway in September.
Being able to switch surfaces, following in the footsteps of drivers like Max McLaughlin, is part of the advice given to him by his dad, Charlie.
“My dad has always been one to say if you race everything, it’ll get you good,” Caprara said. “Every time I get an opportunity to drive something, I’m in it. You have to adjust really quickly because, in a lot of these places, you get three laps of Hot Laps, and then you’re into Heat Racing or whatever it is. It’s very quick so you have to learn how to be versatile and learn how to adjust really fast.”
Another factor that’ll be key in his first season with the Super DIRTcar Series is the help from his crew, which includes former Big Block Modified driver Vinny Vitale.
Having won at tracks like Brewerton, Land of Legends and Weedsport Speedway, Caprara said he knows Vitale’s help will be pivotal to his success.
“It’s huge,” Caprara said. “He decided to back off a little bit because his daughter has some stuff going on with volleyball, but he’ll still play a huge role. He’s helped me a lot, so I have to give him props. He’s helped me a ton.”
As Caprara continues to climb up the Big Block Modified ladder, he’s excited to take the next step forward his career, all while having realistic expectations for the 2024 season.
“It’s a learning experience next year,” Caprara said. “We all know that so we’re not hoping for much. We’re just going to stay positive and have fun and hopefully get some good results.
“My dad has always been one to say pay your dues. So, we’re paying our dues. We’re just going to go have fun with it and maybe get a few wins.”
Caprara and the Super DIRTcar Series kick off the 2024 season at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 14-17.