Har Bell Heritage Hero Athlete - Dale Roper
The years have passed away but the same passion of racing still dwells in the heart of local racing hero Dale Roper. Dale still can be found racing at Bolivar on Friday nights as he conquers his 33rd year in racing.
Roper began his racing career at the age of 26 in 1965 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in a Novice Stock division. His father and brother were the biggest influence to start his career in racing. He worked for his brother, Dean for about 4 to 5 years before he decided to go behind the wheel himself. Dale had always been a racing fan ever since the age of 10. He can remember when his dad brought him to the midget races in 1947 at the fairgrounds and the stock races in Kansas City. Dale is proud to say, “I am a racing fan first and then a driver second. Racing gets in your blood and then you are hooked for life.” Dale’s first race in 1965 at the fairgrounds....he won. After winning his first race some people may say that he ws destined for greatness, but he will tell you he just loves to race.
Dale had the privilege in the 80’s to travel in the Winston Cup Circuit with his brother, Dean for a couple of years. Dale knew he would never make it in the big circuit because he had no desire to move away from Missouri. “If you want to make it in NASCAR you must move to Charlotte where all the garages are located.”
In his local racing career he remembers racing against many current NASCAR racers including Ken Schrader, Rusty Wallace, and Mark Martin. Dale was involved in a race at West Plains with Mark Martin over ten years ago. Dale ended up beating Mark for first; laughingly Dale mentions Mark was also 18 at the time. Although he has raced against some of the local greats of our time, his most memorable moment was last year at the final race of the year. Last year he announced he was going to step away from racing and retire from the sport he loved. The last race he passed Doug Asby with 4 laps to go at Lebanon and edged him out to get the checkered flag. That night he had over 200 people over to celebrate his retirement and his victory. He sold his car and virtually all of his equipment, but a couple of months later a gentlemen from Bolivar asked if he would race his car and he would provide everything for him. So he agreed to race just at Bolivar for one more year on Friday nights.
Racing has given Dale many great memories and times over his 33 year career. He would like to be remembered by all the racers, “when you line up to race every good racer looks around and sees who is lining up against you. I hope when people are lined up against me that I will not do anything that will worry them about their safety.” Because of his racing demeanor Dale has had several great friendships and social contacts with many of the racers, “I don’t think I have made any enemies on the track.”
From Springfield to Bellville, Il. to Kansas City, there is not one track that Dale has not raced on in his 33 year career. After it is all said and done in Dale’s racing career, he has won many trophies, made several friends, and race against the top racers locally; the passion for racing will never run out of his veins. Stock Car Racing will always be a big spectator sport in America, chances are when there is a race on Dale will be right there cheering along.