KVAPIL READY FOR THE ELECTRICITY AT BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 23, 2005) - Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger, has never competed at Bristol Motor Speedway under the lights but he is about to experience...
KVAPIL READY FOR THE ELECTRICITY AT BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 23, 2005) - Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger, has never competed at Bristol Motor Speedway under the lights but he is about to experience Thunder Valley at its finest when he returns to the 0.533-mile oval where he scored his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career high finish of fifth earlier this year.
Kvapil, a 29-year old Janesville, Wis., native has been looking forward to returning to some of the tracks the Cup Series visited earlier this year. Bristol, however, has been on top of his list since the Food City 500 back in April.
To prepare for its return to the Tennessee mountains, the Kodak Racing team tested at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 16 and BMS on Aug. 17.
At Bristol, the team tested into the night and Kvapil received a small taste of the electricity he hears about from other Cup drivers.
"Bristol under the lights is... Well, it's something else." Kvapil said. "I thought driving it in the daylight was incredible, but there is definitely a whole other energy under the lights.
"It's kind of funny, but I would go out and run a couple of laps and Shane [Wilson, crew chief] would bring me in to talk about the car. I think I needed to come in so I could breathe. That is something I will have to get used to, breathing while driving. It's not overrated."
While Kvapil hopes to rekindle the fire he found at Bristol in the Spring, he hopes it carries on long past the weekend.
"Notes are not easy to come by," Kvapil said. "Shane has worked hard to figure out the new Dodge and I think I have driven as hard as I can. It is nice to know we are able to go to some of these tracks with a basic setup, not a shot-in-the-dark.
"I thought having notes would help us last week at Michigan but we struggled up until the race. Shane and the guys tuned on the [No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger] during the race and it looked like the weekend was going to end up alright."
Kvapil had to take a provisional starting position for the GFS Marketplace 400. He started from the 41st position. During the race, Kvapil moved as high up in the field as 14th but after wrecking with Stuart Kirby on lap 142, the Kodak Dodge needed repairs and Wilson informed the team it was time to put the car away.
"I had raced Kirby all day so I thought I would be OK driving in there," Kvapil said. "Unfortunately, his car cut a tire and he ran me into the wall. There was nothing he could do."
"In the end, I wanted to get the car fixed and get back out on the track," Wilson said. "NASCAR was really good to me. They gave us plenty of time to figure out where the smoke was coming from. We tried in the pits and then eventually in the garage.
"My decision came down to how I would want another crew chief to handle the situation. I didn't want to negatively affect the outcome of the race for the guys who ran well all weekend and were in contention to win. When there are no positions to gain by going back on the track it is a matter of safety. I made the call I would expect another to make."
Heading into the Sharpie 500, Kvapil understands the competition is tough and he wants more now than ever to perform well. While he wants to push the limits to find the edge, he also wants to run smart and learn the tracks to prepare for next year.
"As a driver, I never give up on the season I am in," Kvapil said. "You get to the point though where you have to look ahead and start making the best of it for the future. Right now, we are staring 35th place in the face and that is a hard pill to swallow. I never thought we would be this far back in the points."
This year, everyone running in the top 35 in points is guaranteed a starting position. From 36th on back, the drivers must make the race on speed alone with provisions for past winners or series champions.
If Kvapil and the Kodak team could turn things around and earn their first victory this weekend, it would not be the first time Kodak has visited victory lane at BMS. Ernie Irvan drove the Kodak car across the finish line first back on Aug. 25, 1990 for Morgan-McClure Motorsports. It was Irvan's first career victory. He beat Kvapil's teammate, Rusty Wallace, to the finish line by 21 seconds.
"I don't know what the situation was for Ernie at that time, but I would love nothing more than to be the second Kodak driver to get their first win at Bristol Motor Speedway," Kvapil said.
NEWS OF NOTE
Equipment: Primary - PRS-034
The Kodak Racing team is taking PRS-034 to Bristol Motor Speedway. PRS-034 is the same car Kvapil drove to his fifth-place finish in the Food City 500 back in April. It is also the same car that carried the gold Kodak paint scheme during the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November 2004 (St. 17th/Fin. 6th). The team acquired PRS-034 from Rusty Wallace's Miller Lite Racing team late in the 2004 season.