Las Vegas: Dodge - Kevin Kroyer interview

Dodge engine builder finds success out west. LAS VEGAS (October 9, 2002) - For Dodge engine builder Kevin Kroyer, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series weekend in Las Vegas equates to a home-field advantage for him and the No. 62 NAPA/Orleans Dodge...

Dodge engine builder finds success out west.

LAS VEGAS (October 9, 2002) - For Dodge engine builder Kevin Kroyer, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series weekend in Las Vegas equates to a home-field advantage for him and the No. 62 NAPA/Orleans Dodge team that he supports.

Operating out of his 10,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Las Vegas, Kroyer Racing Engines is one of the most promising NASCAR operations west of the Mississippi. This season Kroyer has already powered Dodge driver Brendan Gaughan to a virtual lock in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Championship, and helped the NAPA Dodge team to back-to-back victories in Texas. Kroyer's recent success comes at the end of a long line of achievements, all of which were earned out on the west coast.

"I grew up wanting to be a racecar driver just like everybody else, to be rich famous and good looking," Kroyer said. " Unfortunately, I was none of the above."

Kroyer worked full-time in regular car repair shops to learn more about the trade, and at night he'd work on his own racecars out of his friends' garages. Throughout his early twenties he dabbled mostly in off-road and dirt circle-track racing, but"nothing that amounted to much of anything," he says.

"So, in 1989 I ended up taking my first racing job in the shop of Walker Evans, a pretty well known off-road racer in California. Man, I thought it was like the dream job," Kroyer said. "I wasn't going to be famous, but I certainly was working for somebody who is darn famous and part of a winning team."

Kroyer learned the engine-development trade at Walker Evans Racing, and his motors were a part of 16 off-road championships and about 120 team wins out of the Bakersfield, Cal., shop.

Evans also introduced Kroyer to Las Vegas hotel and casino magnate Michael Gaughan, whose son Brendan was about to realize a flourishing racing career. In 1991, Walker Evans put a 15-year-old Brendan Gaughan in his first off-road truck race, which Brendan won with a Kroyer-built Dodge motor. The ensuing years were the beginning of a long successful relationship for the team.

"Brendan was just another kid," Kroyer said. "He was one of our sponsor's kids, but Mr. Gaughan has always been just a regular guy to us. When the Dodge bosses came by, or some of our other sponsors stopped in, they were big-deal people. But when Mr. Gaughan came by, he was just another race-rat out in the desert, and his kid was just another kid."

Kroyer won about 40 races and five off-road championships with Brendan Gaughan. In 1999, when Gaughan parlayed his off-road career into a full-time ride in the NASCAR Winston West Series, Kroyer came with him.

"We were fast at times," Kroyer said. "We crashed a lot. We had some equipment failures. We did as well as we could - and looking back we probably would have changed some things - but Brendan was still very green."

After the 1999 season Michael Gaughan decided he wanted to get a little more serious about his son's NASCAR career, so he created Orleans Racing, housed in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and fielded his son in another full-season in the NASCAR Winston West Series. He also asked Kroyer to move out to Las Vegas and become the team's independent engine supplier. Initially, Kroyer was hesitant about such a career move.

"Frankly, my answer to the deal was,' What happens if the kid breaks his leg in the first race, and his mom says,' You aren't going to be a race car driver, you're going to go into the casino business like your dad.''"

When Michael Gaughan reassured Kroyer that the two would be business partners in this venture, regardless of Brendan's success in the series, Kroyer knew a chance of a lifetime had presented itself.

"At that point Mr. Gaughan and I struck a handshake business deal that stands to this day - to try and make this engine shop a real for-profit business," Kroyer said

With that handshake, Kroyer and Michael Gaughan struck a partnership, making both men co-owners of Kroyer Racing Engines, Ltd. The shop opened in 2000 with its first client, Orleans Racing, directly across the street.

For Kroyer, success came quickly with the two NASCAR Winston West Championships that Brendan Gaughan won in the 2000 and 2001 season. Kroyer Racing Engines received"Engine Builder of the Year" honors both years, and began providing motors to other Winston West competitors. In those years, Kroyer also helped Brendan test the waters in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

"I had always assumed that Brendan would be a good race car driver," Kroyer said. "He told me that he would give me my first NASCAR win, and if we ever made it to the Truck Series that he'd give me my first truck win too. He did give me my first NASCAR win, and he's given me quite a few since then."

With nearly 30 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races now under his belt, Kroyer is getting used to seeing his motors pass through victory lane. He travels to each race with the Orleans team and provides hands-on support for the No. 62 NAPA Dodge of Brendan Gaughan.

"I feel like I'm as much a part of Orleans racing as anybody else that's at the track," Kroyer said. "I'm certainly there representing Kroyer Racing Engines and trying to promote my organization, but when it comes to race time I'm there to help out Orleans Racing in any way I can. That's kind of the off-road mentality. I'm a little bit team-oriented I guess, and we operate as one team every weekend."

Kroyer is expected to accept his third Clevite Engine Builder of the Year honor for his continued support of the Orleans Racing team in the NASCAR Winston West Series in 2002. To round off an incredible year, Kroyer Racing Engines took wins in five different series including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Winston West Series, the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series, the SCORE Desert Off-Road Series, and the Protruck Racing Series in the month of September alone.

"Many engine builders tend to concentrate on one series or one brand of vehicle," Kroyer said. "This is definitely not the case with us. Our goal is to establish an outstanding winning reputation for our engines in numerous racing disciplines.

"We'll just see where it goes from here. I expect many more truck wins, and I don't know where it's going to go as far as my relationship with Brendan. Some day he may outgrow Kroyer Racing Engines and go off and be a famous stock car driver, or we may grow with him. We don't know yet.

"At this particular moment we might be geared up enough to handle a second operation too, like in the Winston West Series where we were actually racing against our own motors. The workload associated with handling two truck programs would be pretty heavy. It could be a rough deal, but it's certainly not out of the question, and it's certainly not out of the business plan."

DODGE NOTES

* The Dodge teams of Ultra Motorsports have an average qualifying position of 3.7. Jason Leffler earned his eighth pole of the season at Richmond, while Ted Musgrave has started from the pole four times this year. Leffler has led in 14 of the 18 races in 2002, and the two teammates combine for a total of 1057 laps led - nearly a third of the total laps run this year.

* In last year's race at Las Vegas, Ted Musgrave won from the tenth position, becoming the first Dodge driver to win at the track. Ultra Motorsports teammate Scott Riggs, the highest Dodge qualifier at fourth, finished fourth, and Joe Ruttman crossed the line in eighth place to give Dodge three top ten finishers. Brendan Gaughan, who finished 11th, led laps along with Musgrave and Ruttman each led laps.

* Brendan Gaughan finished another strong race at South Boston last week, placing 11th. Besides being the top-finishing rookie for the 12th time this season, he was also the top-qualifying rookie for the eighth time in 2002. He leads all rookies with 231 points, 73 points ahead of Dodge teammate Bill Lester.

Dodge in the Running...

* Driver Points Standings (Ted Musgrave 3rd - 2630 points, Jason Leffler 6th - 2546 points Robert Pressley 8th - 2514 points, and Brendan Gaughan 11th -2327 points)

* Manufacturer Points Standings (Dodge 114 points, Chevy 124 pts, Ford 104 pts)

* Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings (Brendan Gaughan 1st - 231 pts, Bill Lester 2nd -158 points)

* 1341 laps led out of 3205 laps on the year (41.8%)

After 18 races this year, Dodge Rams have earned:
* Six wins
* 11 poles
* 30 top-fives
* 53 top-10s
* Over $2.69 million in winnings

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Jason Leffler , Robert Pressley , Ted Musgrave , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Bill Lester , Brendan Gaughan