Pedal to the metal: Dartmouth teen makes his name in racing

Oct 11, 2020

While some teenage drivers occasionally indulge in the traditional donuts-in-the-parking-lot pastime, 18-year-old Dartmouth resident Derek Gluchacki takes his driving seriously.

So seriously, in fact, that Gluchacki — a race car driver — is currently in pole position for Rookie of the Year with the American-Canadian Tour, a stock car racing series based in the northeastern US and Quebec.

The youth got his start in motorsports when he was just a kid. “I got into racing with my dad and uncle,” he explained. 

After watching his uncle at tractor pulls and visiting Seekonk Speedway to see demolition derbies with his dad, Gluchacki said, he went to see real car racing.

“My dad always tells the story of how I wanted to go home because I was bored,” he said jokingly. 

But after going a few times, they heard about kiddie-sized race cars at the Little T Speedway in Connecticut, where kids can try out racing for ten laps to see if they like it.

“One thing led to another and we bought our own,” he remembered. 

Gluchacki has been racing since 2010, and raced legend cars — made in the style of autos from the 1930s and 40s — from 2016 to 2018, picking up 13 wins at the Seekonk Speedway.

“I’ve always liked the competitive side of racing and everything that comes with that,” he noted. “But I also like all of the hard work that goes into it.”

Since 2019, the Dartmouth native has been racing on the American-Canadian Tour in a late model race car.

“The legend cars are more fun to drive, but the late models are a lot more fun to race,” he explained. Although the late models can go faster — his top speed was around 150 mph just a few weeks ago, he said — legend cars leave less room for error. 

“The late model is a full-fender car, so when you’re side by side with someone and you make contact it’s not a big deal,” he said. “But with legend, if you touch wheels, one of you is going to wreck.”

Gluchacki has crashed just once — and it was in a legend car. 

“I got hooked into the wall, probably going 40 mph when I hit the wall,” he said. “But we have so much safety equipment in the cars now that it didn’t really hurt much at all, and I was fine.”

But the teen has already left an impression in the racing world, with a 2019 World Series win at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut along with a Rookie of the Year designation there, and a second-place points finish.

He’s now looking to carry that momentum forward to win a race in the American-Canadian Tour, which he described as the “most competitive” late model series.

For Gluchacki, the ultimate goal is to move into modified car racing — like at NASCAR. 

In any case, he said, he hopes to make a career out of either working on race cars or driving them.

“The biggest thing you need in this sport is sponsors to get you there,” he said. “Every little kid's dream is to make it to the highest level, and I hope to make it there one day.”