Dylan Slepian could see the finish line. After a grueling semester as a sophomore economics student at Stony Brook University, only five finals stood between the 20-year-old Dix Hills native and summer vacation. Then he could finally focus the majority of his thoughts and energies on his true passion -- racing.
The 2013 Half Hollow Hills West High School graduate entered Stony Brook with plans to study engineering, thinking it would have both logical and practical applications in the auto racing world. But Slepian quickly lost interest in the subject and switched to economics.
"It was a lot more concrete," Slepian said of his new major. "A lot of the math in engineering was theoretical and pretty hard to wrap your head around . . . Economics is a lot more applied math. There's a lot more graphical stuff being used. That makes it a lot easier to digest the math, which makes it easier to focus on the actual study of economics."
But that doesn't mean it's not intensive, especially with races to win on the side.
Slepian has been running on Saturdays in the legends division since 2012 and, after last season, decided to build a new car. His old car, which he purchased from former champion Timmy Solomito, was fairly beat up.
"It had been in a couple big wrecks, so the chassis was not completely square," Slepian said. "You could feel that it wouldn't run through the corners the way it was supposed to. I got a brand-new chassis, rebuilt the engine, and got brand-new rear ends. This car handles a ton better and has more capability in the corners."
Slepian said that he received the new chassis in November and finished building the car in mid-March, spending about 15-20 hours a week working on it, in addition to attending school full time.
"It was a pretty stressful time," he said. "Combining those two things was definitely challenging, with a lot of different schedules going on. But I've watched my peers go week to week with how much work they put in the race car. Studying and schoolwork was all a very high priority for me, but I also knew the level of work I needed to put into the race car to make it go fast . . . I was working very late, but I found time to do it all."
The car, sponsored by the Manorville and Port Jefferson Hurricane Grill and Wings, the first major corporate backer of his career, has run well in the opening weeks. Entering Saturday night, Slepian (124) is second to East Moriches' Richard Davidowitz (142) in the points standings.
Last week, Slepian was leading late in the race, only to be caught by lap traffic and he finished third.
"I picked one way to get around the lapped cars and it slowed me up enough for [Davidowitz] to get by me," Slepian said. "If I was put in that position again, I'd probably do something different."
But Slepian knows that his car is fast enough and that his first career win is within his grasp. "I want it bad," he said. "I want it worse than my next breath."