Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: Travis Kvapil keeps on truckin'

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Dave von Falkenstein
September 3, 2015

The racing season started strange for Janesville native Travis Kvapil.

Back in March, his NASCAR Sprint Cup car and the trailer that contained it were stolen from a hotel parking lot near the Atlanta Motor Speedway the night before the team was due to qualify. Since then, Kvapil has been running for a few different teams in the Cup Series while running full-time in the Camping World Truck Series.

On Saturday, Kvapil will attempt to qualify for Sprint Cup's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in the No. 30 Chevrolet for the Motorsports Group owned by Curtis Key.

“It's a small team,” Kvapil said. “They ran the Xfinity and truck series the last 10 or so years. The team and the owner have been around, he's just trying to make his footing on the Cup side.”

Ron Hornaday and Jeff Green both drove the car earlier in the season, and Josh Wise is scheduled to run some races along with Kvapil in the coming weeks and months.

Kvapil said the team bought some cars from Stewart-Haas Racing and the team's crew chief is Dave Fuge, who was Kvapil's crew chief when Kvapil made his championship-winning run in the truck series in 2003. Kvapil believes having Fuge in that position will be a positive step for the team.

“That should be a plus to get performance,” Kvapil said. “The crew chief has to believe what I say, and the crew chief and the driver need to believe in one another, and we have that.”

Kvapil attempted to qualify the car at Bristol a couple of weekends ago but ended up a few 10ths of a second short and didn't make the race. He believes the team has a pretty good shot at making Darlington as well as a few more races down the road, but he doesn't think the average race fan appreciates the level of competition in the Sprint Cup Series.

“All the teams have good stuff and good people. It's hard to show up and make these races if you don't have the points to fall back on. Qualifying 36th or better is harder than it sounds,” says Kvapil.

As for his role in this newer, small team, Kvapil said he “wanted to be somebody who could be a leader and be part of the team, not just drive the car.”

Kvapil believes he can give the team good feedback and help lead them where they need to go.

The number of remaining Sprint Cup races that Kvapil will run is still week-to-week.

“I would guess I'll run about half (of the Sprint Cup races remaining). I might also be in the No. 33 (Circle Sport Chevrolet), but for the most part I'll be driving the truck for the remainder of the truck schedule. Whatever Cup races come up, we'll see," he said.

Kvapil's truck series team, MAKE Motorports, is also a newer, smaller team.

“We don't have the resources to compete for top fives or wins, but we're slowly building the program to bring in better people and have better equipment,” Kvapil said.

“On days we don't have problems, we run decent. Last weekend, a lot of things went wrong.”

Last weekend's truck race was at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, a road course in Ontario. Kvapil finished nine laps down in 24th after having to pit for transmission problems.

With only eight races left on the truck series schedule, Kvapil thinks he'll be staying with MAKE Motorsports in the truck series next season.

“It's all up in the air right now, but the team is in talks with sponsors, and we have some things looking good,” Kvapil said. “It's too early to tell if it will pan out, but I plan on running trucks with them next year. Whatever Cup chances come up, I'll pursue them, but I won't do it for free and I'm not going to freak out if it doesn't happen.

“I've been around a long time, but I feel like I can still compete and win races at the Cup level," he said.

Chances are that if Kvapil had been coming up through the ranks these days instead of the late '90s/early '00s, it may have turned out differently.

“My chances would be very slim now days. It almost seems like if you're winning races locally, you still need an 'in' if you want to make it further,” Kvapil said.

Many drivers that are moving up the ranks of the junior NASCAR levels these days are bringing either sponsorship or family money.

On the home front for Kvapil, the racing bug has bitten his two sons, Carson, 12, and Caden, 8. Both have been running races at tracks near the Kvapil's home in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Kvapil said neither of them showed much interest in racing until the last couple of years.

“It keeps me busy,” Kvapil said. “Aside from my stuff, all I do is work on their cars, get them to the track.”

Kvapil said Carson has won seven or eight races this year, while Caden has won 12.

“Caden has really taken off and seems like a natural and has a lot of focus. He's really good.”

Regardless of what happens the rest of this season or next for Kvapil, he realizes how lucky he is to be in the position he's in.

“I went to Milton High School, I'm from a small town, my mom and dad worked at GM, and I've driven for Roger Penske, Jack Roush, Richard Childress. It's been great.”

Between the truck series, Sprint Cup and his kids' races, there's no doubt Kvapil will have plenty to do next season.


—Racing at Madison International Speedway was rained out last Friday. This Friday will be the penultimate event of the season with the conclusion of the rained-out Aug. 14 features for the Late Models and Bandits as well as full Late Model, Sportsman and Bandit programs with champions being crowned in all three divisions. Gates open at 6 p.m. with racing at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 adults, $16 seniors, $9 students ags 12-17 and $5 kids ages 6-11. Get tickets here.

—Action at Rockford Speedway last Saturday saw Wayne Freimund take the Late Model feature win while Nick Letsinger won the Sportsman feature, Dennis Smith Jr. took the Roadrunner feature win and Katilyn Judy won the Super Cup feature. This Saturday will feature action in the Late Model, Sportsman, Short Tracker and Roadrunner divisions. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7:05 p.m. Tickets are $12 adults, $8 students ages 12-17 and $5 kids ages 6-11. Get tickets here.

—Winners at Jefferson Speedway last Saturday included Jefferson's Dylan Schuyler in the Late Model feature; Jefferson's Jason Thoma in the Sportsman feature; Fort Atkinson's Mike Lambert in the International feature; Machesney Park's AJ Lloyd in the Hobby Stock feature; Jefferson's Chris Gottschalk in the Road Warrior feature; and Dousman's Josh Marx in the Bandit feature. Racing action Saturday includes a full program in all six divisions plus a 50-lap Late Models feature. Gates open at 3 p.m. with time trials at 5 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m. There will also be a Tournament of Destruction with fireworks on Sunday starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 adults, $8 seniors and students ages 12-15 and $4 kids ages 8-11.

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at [email protected].

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