MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 27, 2005) - Travis Kvapil learned a quick lesson in his No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger at Talladega Superspeedway back in May when just two laps short of the checkered flag his top-10 run ended with an 18th-place finish: Until...
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 27, 2005) - Travis Kvapil learned a quick lesson in his No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger at Talladega Superspeedway back in May when just two laps short of the checkered flag his top-10 run ended with an 18th-place finish: Until you cross under the checkered flag, anything can happen.
Kvapil began his flagship run at the famed 2.66-mile superspeedway dealing with tight handling conditions on his Kodak Dodge. After the Shane Wilson-led Penske-Jasper Racing crew made major changes, including opening up the front shocks to provide more rebound, the rookie driver found the grip he was looking for and set sail on what looked like a great run.
The rookie driver credited the great run to Penske Racing South's dedicated superspeedway program and the improvements made from constant learning. Other accreditations went to Penske-Jasper Engines for the power plant under the hood of the No. 77 and the Kodak Racing team for fast pit stops, which kept Kvapil in contention.
"The race started a little rough for us but the body was so sleek it helped me to do what I could to keep the car up in the front pack; it just sucked up on the other cars when I needed it to," Kvapil said. "After that, it was all crew and engine. Shane called out the changes and the guys, well, they are just bad-fast. The pit crew is up on its game every week.
"I am not sure the crew gets the attention they deserve. Every week they are performing 12- to 14-second pit stops. Even when the car isn't running in the front, I definitely don't lose anything in the pits."
As Kvapil prepares for his final superspeedway installment of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, the rookie driver keeps in mind that anything can happen. After qualifying ninth for the spring Talladega race, the 29-year old Janesville, Wis., native struggled with his race car but made huge gains following changes made in the pits. Kvapil climbed into the top 10 in the closing laps but the day turned sour when he ran out of places to hide. "Here it is lap 186 at Talladega and I thought to myself, 'This is going to be a good day because I can just about see the leaders through all these lapped cars'," Kvapil said. "The next thing I knew, I had a prime view of a carnage in front of me and [I] had nowhere to go. The car had a damaged nose and I limped it around as long as I could. When I finally made it to pit road, the day was over. The busted radiator was hissing and steaming; the engine about blew right there, I guess. It was an awful feeling."
Knowing what he had overcome throughout the course of the scheduled 188 laps to make it back up in the top 10 makes it even harder for Kvapil to think about the outcome. Incidentally, because of the wreck on lap 186, NASCAR followed the green-white-checker protocol and the race ended on lap 194.
"If nothing else, I know not to get too comfortable in my seat," Kvapil said. "Until I see that checkered flag waving over my car as I cross the line, I know I have to be up on the wheel. We have some good notes from the spring race to work from. I sound like a broken record with that line but it is true. We are making gains weekly. However small they may be, we are making gains. The other important thing is for my spotters to be up on their post. They have to have eyes everywhere, in front, in back and on both sides of me. They have to watch way out ahead and behind to make sure we know what is going on.
"I won't say Talladega owes me one because it is every track for itself when it comes to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. What I am saying is that I am up for the challenge. I want that top 10."
NEWS OF NOTE
Crew Member Change: Rear tire carrier David Doyle was replaced after the fourth pit stop last week at Dover International Speedway due to an injured bicep. Doyle was replaced by Penske-Jasper back-up pit crew member Todd Rettlesdorf. Rettlesdorf will go over the wall until Doyle is fully healed and cleared for his return.
Equipment: Primary: PRS-084
The Kodak Racing team is taking PRS-084 to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. PRS-084 is a new car. It made a visit to the wind tunnel on July 20.