NASCAR fans may remember who Kevin Conway was, but do you know who he is now?
Kevin Conway. NASCAR fans will recall him as the guy who won ROTY in 2010, only to effectively vanish soon after. So where did Conway go? Many assumed he just didn't make it and gave up on Cup, others thought he lost his ride. Only a few know the whole story though. So without further procrastination, what did happen to the North Carolina native? I'll let him tell you himself...
"It all comes down to opportunity and that opportunity was to partner up with Lamborghini and get involved in their North American launch of motorsports through the Super Trofeo Series, leading to the GT3 program," Conway explained to Motorsport.com. "Any time you can get in at the ground floor with the manufacturers, starting a motorsports program, it is a cool opportunity."
I wanted to stay in the Xfinity Series, but you have to jump at it when you get that chance because you never know when you're going to have the next one.
Kevin Conway on NASCAR career
No experience, no problem
Conway does not have the background to support such a move either, telling this reporter, "To go from the stock car world to the sports car world was a massive transition. I don't really have a road racing background at all other than (NASCAR) at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. It was a big transition learning how to road race actually."
I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business (in NASCAR). I'd like to go back to prove that we can be competitive there and we've proved it in (Lambo Super Trofeo)
Kevin explained that the deal came together between NASCAR team RAB Racing, Eddie Littlefield and Lamborghini Carolinas to compete in the newly launched Lamborghini North American Super Trofeo series. This turned out to be a winning combination.
"The first two years, we won the championship back-to-back, and the World Finals. Any time you can go win races being competitive, win championships, it's a good thing. Getting back to that was important for me."
Not a worthy ROTY? Think again...
I then asked Kevin to address his detractors, a contingent of fans who believe he didn't truly 'earn' his ROTY title due to the lack of competition in that year's class.
"You still have to be there, run all the races, run all the laps. Some of those people just don't have a thorough understanding of the sport and they don't really get what's going on. We love our fans, we love the haters, we love the passion. That's what makes NASCAR so great with half the fans loving one driver, the other half hating them and that passion is what fuels motorsports."
I love where I'm at and we got great partners with some very big announcement coming out on the road racing side.
Kevin Conway regarding future in motorsports
"Those people just don't know the whole story," Conway continued. "We ran within a couple positions of our teammates every single race so if my teammates were running at the front and I was in the back, then there would be room for conversation to take place. It's been cool to come over to the Lambo side and prove what we can do. Part of it is also that I got thrown into the Cup Series early, not necessarily by my plan but by opportunity that was driven by sponsors. I wanted to stay in the Xfinity Series, but you have to jump at it when you get that chance because you never know when you're going to have the next one."
Despite the lucrative career he has established on the Lambo side, Conway still misses the stock car world.
"I miss running the NASCAR side a lot, I really do," he admitted to Motorsport.com. "Unfortunately, I didn't put myself in a position to be at those top organizations. To run 25th, 35th is an interesting experience but as a racer, you want to win. I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business there. I'd like to go back to prove that we can be competitive there and we've proved it on this side (Lamborghini). If the opportunity comes up, that's great, but right now I'm very focused on the program we have now."
Any time you're in a race car, you're always learning. Whether you're in the back or the front, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is some of the best race car drivers in the world.
Since he is a torn between the two passions of sports cars and stock cars, I inquired about which prestigious race he'd rather run ... The Rolex 24 or Daytona 500.
"Both! I'm greedy, I'm a racer! (laughs)"
"I was telling some of the guys who were running both saying you are lucky to run two of the biggest races in the world within a month. Right now, I'm very focused on the sports car side of things. Obviously our focus right now is the 2016 Rolex 24 and looking at what our program is going to look like for that event."
A possible NASCAR comeback?
So speaking of opportunity, would the now 35-year-old Conway take up a NASCAR team on an offer should one be put on the table?
"If something were to come up with RAB Racing, I would absolutely do it but right now, the focus is on this sports car program. You know, Jeff Gordon is starting a new chapter in his career, and I've just started my new chapter early. I love where I'm at and we got great partners with some very big announcement coming out on the road racing side."
Any track time is valuable
With no road racing background to lean on, could Conway take anything from his time in NASCAR and apply it to his new gig?
"Any time you're in a race car, you're always learning. Whether you're in the back or the front, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is some of the best race car drivers in the world. It is some of the most competitive racing anywhere in the world. Restarts are very aggressive, you can learn from that. We've had some roval races and we certainly excelled there, won every one we raced on. Having the comfort level on the banking certainly helped. Just to be racing with that level of drivers, it's going to translate into any type of racing. Once you race at that level, it's something that sticks with you."
A Lamborghini GT3 car and a NASCAR stock car are complete dichotomies of one another, so as for personal preference, which one does Conway find more enjoyable to drive? The smooth riding Lambo or the bullish stock car?
"On a road course, I'd definitely take the Lamborghini but there's nothing quite like running three-wide at Talladega, Daytona in the draft. It's an amazing experience and qualifying at over 200mph into a corner was a surreal experience. Because of the partnership between RAB and Change Racing, I still get to be around both."
Conway is very excited about 2015, attempting to defend both his world title and secure a third straight North American Super Trofeo crown. And of course, you can't be a Lamborghini driver and not be anxiously anticipating this new Huracan, which Conway called an 'incredible' race car. And as he hinted at earlier, there are some 'big announcements' coming from his team in the near future.
So there you have it. One could argue that Conway went on to be the most successful NASCAR ROTY in recent years ... Not what you'd expect when a backmarker quietly disappears from the grid. It just shows that even those who we see bringing up the rear on a weekly basis may still have the talent to perform, they just need the car underneath them to showcase it.