LET'S DO IT AGAIN Kvapil Reflects on 2003 Michigan Victory MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 14, 2005) - As Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger and 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate, heads into Michigan...
LET'S DO IT AGAIN
Kvapil Reflects on 2003 Michigan Victory
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 14, 2005) - As Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger and 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate, heads into Michigan Speedway this weekend, he has fond memories of victory lane and aside from his realistic views, he hopes to find his way there again.
Kvapil won the NASCAR Truck Series race at Michigan in August 2004, his last year in that series. The former Truck Series champion led only once in the Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 but it proved to be the most important lead change - to Kvapil anyway - of the event.
"We struggled, to say the least, but the win made it all worthwhile," Kvapil said. "I hit the wall in practice and then we had an engine change. I qualified [eighth] but had to drop to the tail. There is nothing to fire me up like staring at the back of all those other trucks."
Kvapil hopes to have the same success this time around at Michigan, minus the minor setbacks from last year, but he is a realist and says, "Top 10s would be a step in the right direction."
"There are 42 other drivers who want to win, weekly," Kvapil said. "The No. 77 Kodak Racing team needs to find a stable running ground, then we will work our way forward. It seems like we run well, like in Bristol and then again in Texas, but then we have a setback. We need to get to the point where we are breaking the top 10 every week. We've had two 17th-place finishes in a row. Now we shoot for top 15s."
Kvapil has been in racing long enough to understand the ups and downs. If there is one thing he understands, it is to keep plugging away no matter what the setbacks. When his racing career began, Kvapil's father constantly encouraged him and pushed for improved performance before taking the next step.
"It didn't matter what was accomplished, Dad always pushed for improvement," Kvapil said. "One win wasn't enough to claim a victory; it could have been a fluke. I had to [win] over and over to become a champion.
"Top 20s breed top 10s and top 10s breed top fives. Eventually, the win comes, but no one is going to hand it to me. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is competitive and I have to work harder to show progression. The No. 77 team is tough. They have been down and counted out but we keep coming back. No, we are not considered a contender right now. Do I think we will be by the end of the year? Hell, yeah."
While Kvapil is realistic about his Cup Series career, it is hard to ignore the feeling a driver gets when returning to a track where they have experienced success.
"I don't know what it is about Michigan but I always seem to run well there," Kvapil said. "Yes, it gives me added confidence knowing I can get around a track. The thing is I need to remember to run my race and stay clean. A good qualifying effort will help me there."
In three visits to Michigan's Irish Hills, Kvapil's average start is 11th. His average finish is third.
NEWS OF NOTE
All three Penske teams will have a little time for R&R Thursday. They have been invited to the Detroit Tigers vs. San Diego Padres baseball game at Comerica Park Thursday afternoon, courtesy of Penske Corp. Travis Kvapil will join his team at the game and while he does not claim to be a baseball fan, he plans to root for the home team.
"This is about team building and spending time with my guys," Kvapil said. "I wouldn't call myself a fan, but who doesn't like to go sit at a baseball game and eat hot dogs while hanging out with friends? Since I am not a regular with MLB, I will of course pull for the home team. I don't know enough to pull for anyone else."
Equipment: PRS-037 The Kodak Racing team has not used PRS-037 in competition. PRS-037 was acquired from Ryan Newman's Alltel Racing team. Newman raced 037 twice in 2003 and once in 2004 - Las Vegas '03 (St. 3rd/Fin. 7th); Spring Charlotte event '03 (St. 1st/Fin. 5th); Las Vegas '04 (St. 5th/Fin. 27th).
Wind Tunnel: PRS-037 went to the Lockheed wind tunnel March 8. It was planned for competition at Dover but the team opted for PRS-089.