2010 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Saturday news conference
January 16, 2010
An Interview with Kevin Conway
DENISE MALOOF: Okay, everybody, we have Kevin Conway here. Kevin, big season coming up, new team, new opportunity in the Cup Series.
KEVIN CONWAY: It is. We're very excited to have the opportunity to run for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year with Front Row Motorsports. It's a huge, huge opportunity for me and something I've worked my entire life to get to this point and to have this opportunity. Very, very exciting.
We have some major announcements coming out on Tuesday during the media tour, and very excited to be a part of the Ford Racing family and Front Row Motorsports as a whole as they continue to grow their organization next year with Travis Kvapil as my teammate, as well, next year.
Q: Can you talk about working with Jerry Freeze? He really seems to be juggling a lot of balls right now.
KEVIN CONWAY: No, Jerry, that guy, we always give him a hard time saying he's one of the hardest working guys in the sport for sure. He's the one-man band that keeps everything at Front Row Motorsports together, and right now with Travis and I coming on board and Front Row as a whole really trying to step up their organization, they had a banner year for them last year finishing in the Top 35 with John Andretti and now as the whole organization really takes the next step up with Ford Racing and Factory Ford support and the addition of our program as well and the 37 car and having both teams there, it's given Jerry quite a bit to juggle, but it's a very exciting growth. And we also have the right partners in place to enable that growth to happen in a way that we're very excited about for 2010 as far as with the Factory sport and the sponsors and partners that we do have on board.
Q: Just tell me what the Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning that award, would mean to you. Obviously it's yours to lose right now because you don't have very much competition. Terry Cook, I think, has plans to run, but tell us what that would mean to you to win that award?
KEVIN CONWAY: Well, I think in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year is something that only a handful of people have ever been able to accomplish in the history of NASCAR. So to be able to win that award at the highest levels of the sport is something that is almost -- I didn't think I was going to be in this position four or five months ago, so I had no idea we were even going to have this opportunity. It's a dream come true, and it's something, again -- I've been racing since I was six-years-old, so I've spent my entire life in pursuit of an opportunity such as this, and it's something that would absolutely be the pinnacle of my entire career and something that we're very, very, very excited about, just having this opportunity and privilege.
Q: Are you in awe of your situation right now?
KEVIN CONWAY: Yeah, I think in some ways we are. I don't think we've really underestimated what we're trying to take on. I think that we're fully aware just how difficult the Sprint Cup Series really truly is, and my coming in with limited experience in the stock cars and things like that. I think we're fully aware of what we're getting into, but just trying to set realistic goals and go out there. But it's definitely been a little bit like, man, pinch me, is this really real.
As you come up through the different ranks, you have so many times where you have deals come together and they fall through at the last minute or whatever, so to actually be here and have it be happening is unbelievable.
Q: A lot of people don't know who you are. Do you feel like you're ready for this type of opportunity? And what would make you think that you are ready?
KEVIN CONWAY: That's a great question. I think one of the things why I feel like we are ready is just over the years a lot of times people haven't known me, but I've done a tremendous amount of testing with various Cup teams over the years, doing things at Desert Proving Grounds, doing brake tests, short track tests, doing different things like that for different organizations and then being in the Nationwide Series off and on for the last few years. I feel like certain tracks we're definitely more ready than we are at other tracks. But at the end of the day, I don't have hardy -- very, very limited experience in the Cup cars, so it's something that we certainly have a huge learning curve. But with the support and the sponsors we have in place and with the Factory support like Ford and having a teammate like Travis Kvapil to lean on I think is going to flatten out that learning curve a little bit. If some of those things weren't in place, it would certainly make our task that much more difficult given the amount of seat time that I do have. But with all those things in place, I think we've tried to position ourselves to flatten out that learning curve as much as possible.
Q: To what degree this year do you feel like timing is everything? It appears it'll be right around 43 operations trying to make these races, and if it comes down to a go or go home situation, what's going to be critical to making these races and advancing forward?
KEVIN CONWAY: Well, fortunately for us, we are locked into the first five, so that's going to help us significantly to make sure that we finish those first five and stay into the Top 35 in points. However, at the end of the day for us, our biggest challenge is to get experience and finish races and we're going to have to be in them to make that happen. For us and practice and things like that, it's a lot -- if for some reason we do fall out of the Top 35, we'll be in the same position that a lot of the guys are in. Even in practice we'll have to make sure we get it done and focus on that qualifying effort and do whatever it takes to get into the race because at the end of the day it's the only way we're ever really going to get the seat time and the things that we need to accomplish for our goals.
Q: You talked earlier about your lack of experience. Do you worry somewhere in the back of your mind that this might be your one and only chance to get in a Cup car and maybe it came along at a time when you didn't quite have the experience you really would prefer to have?
KEVIN CONWAY: I think any time a race car gets into -- any time a driver gets into a race car at this level, you never know what it's going to be your last shot at making it, so to speak, just in today's economic climate and the way the sport is, you never know. There's only 43 guys each week that get to do it, and timing is everything. Right now I do feel like we're ready for what we have just because everybody that we surround ourselves with is realistic about our goals and our expectations, and I think that's the biggest thing is managing expectations. We've seen guys such as Scott Speed and others that have had limited stock car experience and they've struggled a little bit. Even guys like Joey Logano before they were able to run a full Nationwide schedule stepped into the Sprint Cup Series. Let's be honest, all the guys that have come in have struggled the first half of the season. Joey really turned his year around in the second half of 2010, but in the first part of the year he struggled.
I think as long as we continue to manage expectations and set realistic goals for ourselves, I think that, again, timing is everything, and it's enabled us to be in this position to run for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year, but I think it's something I'm ready for and our entire team is ready for, as well.
Q: What do you have to do to convince 42 other guys, especially Tony Stewart, Dale, Jr., Jimmie, Jeff, that they can trust you, that they can race with you, and especially here and Talladega they can draft with you?
KEVIN CONWAY: I think one of the biggest things in competing at this level to earn someone's trust is to be out there and race with them, make sure you don't do anything stupid. One of our first and foremost goals is to finish every single lap of these races to gain as much experience as we can. Our goal is to stay in the Top 35 and compete for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title. That's our goal. In that it's not doing anything stupid, earning their respect the hard way, by racing door-to-door with them, racing wheel-to-wheel with them and knowing that they can race with you and you're not going to wreck them, you're not going to make a poor decision that could cost them the championship or anything like that.
Q: Can you clarify, do you have the points from Front Row last year, and will Travis then have to qualify on speed, or do you both have points, and where did those points come from?
KEVIN CONWAY: Right now that is the plan as far as forward that I will have the points from the 34.
Q: And Travis will have to qualify?
KEVIN CONWAY: Correct. That is subject to change, but as of right now today.
Q: Have you had any time to spend with Peter Sospenzo to get to know him before the season begins?
KEVIN CONWAY: We have. I've actually been up at the shop every single day trying to get to know all of my guys and build some relationships there and hang out with Peter. Peter actually goes pretty far back in the sport with some of my family members and some family connections that -- when he was at Penske Racing, my uncle was one of the engineers there and things like that. I've known Peter for quite a while, but this is the first chance I've had obviously working directly with him. We've spent a lot of time between Jerry Freeze and Peter Sospenzo and I. Every day it seems like we end up spending at least six or seven hours together and really trying to build that relationship and build a relationship with all of my guys on the team so that when we get here we're more than just a team, we're more like family and close friends.
Q: Why don't you give us the short version of how your deal came together?
KEVIN CONWAY: Our deal came together very quickly and quite unexpected. We were planning on running a limited Sprint Cup series schedule and then campaigning a full-time effort in the Nationwide Series, and as things kind of continued to unfold and different things happened and kind of lined up with Front Row Motorsports, they had an opportunity there to start a second team. We had been talking to them earlier in the 2009 season and things continued to progress and it just gave us an opportunity there where we'd have an opportunity to go out and run for Rookie of the Year. It kind of made a lot of sense.
It comes back to timing really is everything, and the program was put into place, so now we've kind of reversed our schedule to where we're going to run full-time in the Sprint Cup Series and a partial-time in the Nationwide Series. Frankly, it was kind of unexpected the way everything kind of came together between the scenes between Homestead and Christmas, really.
Q: Who was your uncle at Penske?
KEVIN CONWAY: Brett Conley. He was the head engineer at Yates for like 10 years, and then he went to Penske, and now he's on his own. He has his own company.
Q: Can you tell us who your sponsor is, and is it for a full year?
KEVIN CONWAY: Yes. I can say this: We will have ExtenZe back with us, but we have some other big plans to announce on Tuesday, some other partners that we have in place that we're very, very excited and proud to have the opportunity to represent throughout the entire 2010 Sprint Cup Series schedule.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, Kevin. Good luck.
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