In his younger years, Shane Riffel's life was driving.
Back in those days, in fact, Riffel's title was "professional driver," and when he wasn't racing (which, of course, was not often), he was working at the Skip Barber Racing School, where he would test drive vehicles, teach others and, at times, provide the occasional joy ride for prospective buyers.
"I was racing almost full-time," the Kennedy native recalled, "but when I wasn't, my job was to test Chrysler, GM, Dodge (etc.) cars, offer training and take part in consumer programs. So at the track there would be a tent and I would give customers a thrill ride."
Shane Riffel, right, is seen in victory lane at Holland Speedway after a Cup Lites Racing Series victory earlier this month.
That was around 2001, and during that time Riffel was racing the cars he loves most - Cup Lites - and having success, too - that year that he won the Cup Lites Racing Series Championship.
The Cup Lites Racing Series, owned by Paul Graff since 2003, is a racing division developed by former NASCAR Busch Series driver Tim Bender meant to bring professional-style racing to a range affordable to all (a car ready-to-race, Riffel notes, can be had for just $14,000). The cars, which are -scale stock cars, are powered by 700cc snowmobile engines and can reach speeds in excess of 135 miles per hour.
"The Cup Lites all have the same motors and the same chassis," Riffel said, "so it comes down to setup and the driver. And that's what I really like about it. I love racing those cars.
"They've been good to me."
In fact, on his first day racing the Cup Lites, Riffel had a day he'll forever remember.
"My first time in a Cup Lite car we won four races in one day," he said. "We won the heat, both features and a match race. The match race was five laps and it was great because we switched cars, and I ended up beating my own car."
At the Cup Lite Series' height, Riffel and some 25 competitors would travel from Holland Speedway to Syracuse to Erie and into Canada for races.
But that popularity and success would falter do to, among other things, the economic downturn in 2008, and Cup Lites racing was put on hold.
Cars were sold and the series soon migrated south.
"If the series had been able to stick around during the bad economy," Riffel said, "I think it would have really taken off. But 10 of the cars went to Alabama and another person bought a bunch of cars and took them to Canada."
Riffel soon moved to North Carolina, turned his attention to other series, drove ASA Late Models and even had the opportunity, on more than one occasion, to race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
Still, however, his love for Cup Lites never faded.
"They were so fun to drive that I always kept one (Cup Lite car)," Riffel said, "because I still wanted the chance to race them again."
After the series went two years without races (2010 and 2011), Riffel finally got that chance to race again in May, when Graff decided it was time to rebuild.
The resurgent series held its first race at Holland Speedway on May 20 and wouldn't you know it? Riffel won.
A week later he took second and then, in the most recent race - also at Holland - he drove his No. 54 Monster Energy/Hitchcock Signs Camry to yet another victory, this time by 15 car lengths.
Despite the successes, however, Riffel, who is a business owner, isn't looking to restart his career, but instead help Graff rebuild the series.
"I'm not making a career out it and I don't get to race a lot like I used to," he said. "I just want to see it take off. The level of talent is definitely there. It's a great series, a great stepping-stone for guys and something that is very affordable."
Getting a chance to travel north and see family isn't so bad either.
"That was really neat," he said. "I've always been close with my parents so to come back home - I hadn't been back since 2007 - and see family and friends and have them at the track was great."
The next Cup Lite race will be held on Aug. 11 at Holland Speedway. For more information, contact Graff at 716-912-9997.