Baytown-based driver makes way onto NASCAR truck series
Cory Roper grew up loving race cars.
Now, he is living proof that making your dreams come true can happen with a little luck, a lot of determination and an ability to seize opportunity.
That’s why Roper, 41, is now a competitor on the NASCAR Ganders Outdoors Truck Series barely two years after toiling on Texas-area tracks to feed his competitive fire.
A year after beginning his NASCAR career in Martinsville and running in six total 2018 races, Roper has competed in seven this season and just recorded his best-ever finish – ninth – at the 2019 SpeedyCash.com 400 in Fort Worth at the Texas Motor Speedway on June. 7.
His highlight to date occurred in February while making a run to the second position after starting 25th at the Daytona International Speedway before wrecking late in the race.
“I don’t know anyone from NASCAR, I showed up at NASCAR and we do very well,” Roper said. “For as new as we are, we qualified fourth in Vegas and seventh in Charlotte a few weeks ago. We got speed. I have a lot to learn on how to drive these things, it’s extremely difficult and physical. I am still trying to learn how the air manipulates the truck. But we have speed and teams like us don’t do that.”
Admittedly, Roper would race even more if not for the cost of just making it to a single event. He hopes to secure sponsorship that could help his team’s cause.
“If I had the money, I would do it every week,” Roper said. “To do it right? You need about $125,000 for each race.”
A native of Vernon, Texas, Roper worked on cars before marrying his wife, Cherie and ultimately joining the military.
During special forces training he fractured the femur neck in his left leg. He was forced to come home with the injury, and he laid up waiting for it to heal.
“I wouldn’t let them cut on me,” Roper said. “That whole femur neck shattered, and I figured it was going to heal, since it hadn’t broken yet, it just shattered. So, I just stayed off of it for nine months, I babied it and here I am. They told me I would need a new hip until I was 35, but I am still good.”
Considering he got discharged six months before 9/11 happened, he was more than good.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.
He got back into civilian life and a friend of his helped Roper into industrial work and before he knew it, he would be a foreman working in Vernon.
A newer company recruited him and sent him south to Houston and soon, wanderlust took over.
“I wanted to do something different,” Roper said.
He began his own industrial construction company in Baytown – Preferred Industrial Contractors – nine years ago and became his own racing sponsor.
“I started in a small building, I rented it and built about four or five little offices,” Roper said. “Then we relocated here (to his new location). We have about 54,000 square feet here.”
Then came the racing in full force after success on amateur and local racing circuits.
“It was hard and fast competition,” he said.
After a life hoping to make enough money to build race cars, good fortune landed in Roper’s lap.
Bayley Currie, now a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racer, had an initial opportunity to race in the series in Austin and found himself and the then-20-year-old at a crossroads.
Currie was needing funding to finish out the 2017 series and Roper decided to help him out.
“The kid is 20 years old at the time,” Roper said. “I don’t know why I did it and I said ‘Hell let’s go. I was 20 once, this has been my dream.’ So, I flipped the bill and we flew out to Martinsville and he finished the last three races of the year.”
During his travels he ran into the former race team for Brad Keselowski of the NASCAR circuit as they planned to shut down and get rid of their stock to focus on the Nationwide Series as a driver.
Suddenly Roper soon had a racing garage of his own.
“Then last thing you know, I bought a truck,” Roper said. “I ended up talking to his general manager … and it turned out I bought three trucks from him. After the racing season, they were going to sell everything they had.”
Before anyone knew it, Roper had a shop’s full of equipment through barter and sale, vehicles and a desire to race. The estimated start up of his new venture was about $4-5M according to Roper.
Now, Roper has a shop attached to his company where he does all his work in preparation for the next race – which will be at the Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 11.
Roper’s brothers Craig, Chris, Chad, brother-in-law Chad Anderson, friend Rob Sorenson and crew chief Shane Whitbeck make up the rest of the Roper Racing team.
So, Roper and his family – including daughters Megan and Britney – will continue to participate on the track while he hopes to one day take over a team leader and help pave the way for more young and up and coming racers with big dreams and bigger trucks with even bigger engines.
“My goal is to drive while I can and enjoy it, but I want to have a successful, two-truck team based out of Texas,” Roper said. “I want to be able to take talent and kids to give them an opportunity. I would get out of the truck now if that would allow us to win races.”