TULARE, Calif. – Going into Trophy Cup championship night Saturday many may have overlooked Colby Copeland in the points rundown, but he grabbed everyone’s attention by the end of the night.
Copeland sat ninth in the standings before racing began Saturday after a pair of strong prelims, with his Friday performance being the better of the two.
When all was said and done, Copeland had climbed to a career-best runner-up finish in the Trophy Cup points in Jim and Annette Van Lare’s No. 5v.
“Knowing that there were so many good guys that could have better nights on Friday, we came right back out,” Copeland said of his best prelim performance. “We qualified good again, eighth quick, charged forward in the heat and then ran fifth in the main which put us ninth in overall points.”
While everyone focused on cars near the top of the points like Buddy Kofoid, Rico Abreu and Anthony Macri, Copeland simply remained focused on himself and getting the most he could out of the No. 5v machine.
“We started seventh in the qualifier,” Copeland said of how Saturday began. “Usually, that’s tough, but these guys did a great job of getting the track widened out. In years past it’s been like ‘oh no,’ one lane, starting in the back it’s going to be hooky and greasy and hammer and hang on, so these guys did a great job getting the tracked widened out, and I was able to get up to fourth.”
The heat race result lined them up 12th for the 50-lap finale, and after a sub-par first half of the race, the resilient team utilized the fuel stop to make effective changes.
“These guys just tuned on the adjuster bolts a little bit, a few turns in the shocks,” Copeland explained. “And man, it came alive, so I was able to drive up to second there.”
Copeland was especially happy to earn the finish for his team that he’s continued to build a healthy chemistry with throughout the year.
“It was cool to get second in points,” Copeland said. “Jim and Annette and the 5v team, they deserve it.”
Copeland has impressed all season in the Bianchi Farms-sponsored car, picking up a trio of wins in Oregon during the Western Sprint Tour Speedweek, earning a couple California victories and being generally consistent before the strong Trophy Cup run.
The Roseville, Calif., native has found a cozy home in his current ride. His car owner’s mindset keeps Copeland comfortable behind the wheel but also determined to produce results for a team that allows him plenty of freedom for other responsibilities such as sometimes helping spot for Kyle Larson or dabbling in race promotion.
“Jim is one of those car owners that’s hard to find,” Copeland said. “He’s super relaxed. If we win, lose, or draw he’s going to have the same attitude. I kind of make my own schedule. I do the spotting thing. I’ve promoted a few races, and I work too. This isn’t my job. So, he’ll always say ‘hey, are we going racing? Yep, ok cool we’ll see you there.’ Then he has the car ready and away we go.”
While the pairing of Copeland and Van Lare focus primarily on 360 racing, they’ve also raced a handful of 410 events with some help from Larry Antaya.
“Even when we ran the No. 16a, it was just this 5v car with the 16a wings on it,” Copeland said. “Larry also gave us a shot with his engine and put his wings on and supported us in the 410 stuff.”
Copeland’s results in limited 410 appearances have been stout.
He finished second in the NARC-King of the West Fastest Four Days in Motorsports and was runner-up in the opening night of the Gold Cup Race of Champions with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series in September.
While race season is nearing its end, Copeland still has some nights planned in the No. 5v as he’ll finish out the Sprint Car Challenge Tour season. If his continued improvement is any indicator, Copeland should close out the year in strong fashion following his runner-up in the Trophy Cup.
“It’s cool to have a good run,” Copeland said. “Hopefully we can finish the year off strong.”