Kvapil, Gaughan credit NASCAR Touring for 2003 successes Three-time champion Sprague plans 2004 return Top nine in standings have won at least one race this year DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 26, 2003) -- It's hardly a two-man battle yet, but...
Kvapil, Gaughan credit NASCAR Touring for 2003 successes
Three-time champion Sprague plans 2004 return
Top nine in standings have won at least one race this year
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 26, 2003) -- It's hardly a two-man battle yet, but both Travis Kvapil and Brendan Gaughan point to experience on the "ladder" as a major reason why each has stood atop the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings much of this summer.
Kvapil (No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet), who recorded his first victory of the season Aug. 20 in the series' return to Bristol Motor Speedway, and four-time winner Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge) have swapped the No. 1 spot after each of the past four races -- just one lead change short of the 2001 series record.
Kvapil, the current leader, holds a slim eight-point margin over Gaughan, who finished fourth last week at Bristol.
Both competitors share similar backgrounds: each is a former series Raybestos Rookie of the Year--Kvapil in 2001 and Gaughan a year ago.
Also, both competitors point to their experience in NASCAR Touring as the reason for their ascension to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Kvapil, 27, began his career in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series then moved to NASCAR Touring, where he won twice in the NASCAR Elite Division International Truck & Engine Corporation Midwest Series and finished fourth in the 1999 championship standings.
In 1999, Gaughan, now 28, traded the sand and cactus of desert racing for a seat in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series. The Las Vegas native won eight races and two championships between 2001-'02.
"The Winston West Series has put us in this position," said Gaughan, who scored back-to-back victories at Gateway International Raceway and Michigan International Speedway in July. "I could have run in the back of the pack in NASCAR Craftsman Trucks and taken a couple of years to learn things. But my rookie mistakes were made in the Winston West Series where it costs you a whole lot less than the mistakes you'd make here."
Said Kvapil, of Janesville, Wis., "We followed the steps that NASCAR established all the way, from the quarter-mile track in Rockford, Ill., in the four-cylinder stock division and in Late Models" where he won titles in each.
Kvapil has won once each season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series after graduating from the International Truck & Engine Corporation Midwest Series, where he finished among the top 10 in 39 of 66 starts. "That's where I learned how to take care of the car and how to communicate with the crew," he said.
Gaughan likely would have a commanding lead except for an 18-place finish due to an accident at Dover and an eventual 22nd-place at Kentucky after leading most of the way. Kvapil, on the other hand, has fashioned his lead through consistency, completing all but a single lap in 2003 and posting top-10 finishes in 14 of 16 races.
Kvapil has been running at the finish in 61 of 62 career starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, although he's not surprised by the statistic. Finishing just comes naturally to Kvapil -- for a very good reason.
"When I started out, it was tough enough for us to get a car together, let alone get it to the race track," said Kvapil, who's bidding to give Xpress Motorsports a second consecutive NASCAR Craftsman Truck title. "The last thing I wanted to do was to tear it up and be parked for a couple of weeks. My philosophy has always been to get the best finish you can."
NEWS & NOTES -- PART II
* Sprague to seek fourth series title in 2004 ... Xpress Motorsports has announced that three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague will return to the series next year in a second truck owned by Steve Coulter. Sprague earned three championships (1997, '99, '01) for Hendrick Motorsports and ranks second in series victories with 23 and first in starts and consecutive starts with 170.
* 2003 winners' list matches single-season top-10 record ... Including Kvapil's victory at Bristol, nine of the current Top-10 drivers in the championship hunt have won at least one race, while those in 11th and beyond have yet to register a 2003 victory. Tenth-place Terry Cook (No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford) is the only driver without a win among this year's Top 10. In 2000, nine of the final Top 10 had a victory. Each previous season has produced at least one winner outside the Top 10.
* Etc. ... Roush Racing has landed sponsor Superchips Inc. to finish out the 2003 season on the No. 99 Ford of Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Carl Edwards. Founded in England in 1983, Superchips, Inc. was one of the first companies specializing in the "tuning" of computer-controlled vehicles for more power. They are not currently used in NASCAR competition. ... Edwards won the 10 bonus points awarded to the candidate scoring the most points during the second leg of the Rookie of the Year competition. Edwards holds a 248-150 point lead over Randy Briggs (No. 53 Arrow Truck Sales Ford). ... Kvapil's winning average speed of 88.813 mph at Bristol is a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series record as is the 123.562 mph Bud Pole speed of Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge). ... The Bristol victory was the first for Xpress Motorsports crew chief Chris Showalter, who joins father Gary as the second father-son combo to win in the series. The other duo is Dave Fuge Sr. and Jr. in 2002. ... Just seven of Bristol's 35 starters previously had competed in a series race at the .533-mile venue. Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet) made the most of their Bristol experience, finishing third and fifth. Setzer's average short track finish in 2003 (five races), 3.6, ranks first among all drivers.