Fresh off his second win of the season, Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 6 K&N Filters Ford F-150, is eager to get back to racing on July 14 for the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers race at Kentucky Speedway.
Fresh off his second win of the season, Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 6 K&N Filters Ford F-150, is eager to get back to racing on July 14 for the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers race at Kentucky Speedway. Kvapil participated in a teleconference in Monday, and discussed, among other things, his recent success.
TRAVIS KVAPIL -- No. 6 K&N Filters Ford F-150
IT IS YOUR FIRST SEASON WITH ROUSH FENWAY RACING. IN ADDITION TO TWO WINS, YOU HAVE SEVEN TOP-10S IN 12 STARTS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRANSITION THAT YOU'VE MADE THIS YEAR TO ROUSH FENWAY? "It's been a bit of adjustment for me, for sure. I raced the past few seasons in Nextel Cup with very minimal success. So when Jack Roush gave me the opportunity to take over the No. 6 truck that Mark Martin had a lot of success with last year, I knew, in the long haul, I think it would have been a step forward in my career. I'm still looking at it like that. We started the season off really strong in Daytona, and then kind of struggled for three or four races. Really couldn't get the handle on the truck. Then they went to work and we had a couple of team meetings, really sat down and figured out what the heck we needed to do to get the speed back. They went to work on the trucks for me; they cut up some sheet metal and worked on the set-ups really hard. In the last five or six races we've been really strong and a lot momentum on our side, picked up a couple of wins and been up front for the other races. Things are just kind of rolling along right now and gelling of the team."
YOU MENTIONED MOMENTUM; CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF MOMENTUM? YOU'LL SEE GUYS IN OTHER SPORTS, WHETHER IT'S BASEBALL AND THEY GO ON A HITTING STREAK, OR IN BASKETBALL, THEY SEEM THEY CAN'T MISS FROM THREE-POINT RANGE. HOW DOES THAT WORK IN RACING FROM WEEK TO WEEK, WHEN YOU ARE NOT NECESSARILY DRIVING IN THE SAME TRUCK EVERY WEEK? "I think the team does, too, but I go into every week right now with the mentality and the mindset that we're the guys to beat or definitely one of the three or four top guys and we're going to be fast when we get there, we're going to be contenders for the win and just having that confidence going into the weekend and having that feeling that the team is willing to take that extra step or work the extra hour because they know we'll get results on race day. It's just really nice to have that feeling. The last two years in Nextel Cup, I was trying to make races and just trying to get decent finishes and it is a whole different mentality when you are going to the race track to win and it feels good. We just need to keep it rolling."
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO BRAD (KESELOWSKI) YET? I KNOW YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO REACH OUT TO HIM OR CALL HIM IF YOU DID HAVE A CHANCE. HAVE YOU TALKED WITH HIM? "Yes, I actually was pretty lucky, I was able to after the hats, the media center and all that stuff. I went back to the trailer and Brad was right there, a couple of trailers down, with his team. I was able to pull him off to the side and talk to him about it, kind of give him my side of the story and he gave me his side of the story. I really felt a lot better having that conversation. I'm sure, I know he's still upset and wanted that victory but he wasn't really that mad at me. He told me his truck was really starting to lose the handle and he was just doing everything he could to keep the truck glued around the white line. He was really having a hard time doing that. I told him, like I said in my interview, that's not how I race, that was definitely unintentional and I hate it that it went down that way. I think we walked away with a pretty good understanding and respect for each other. I look forward to having the opportunity to race with Brad, hopefully with the same circumstances like that down the road."
WE'RE ABOUT TO THE MIDWAY POINT. OBVIOUSLY FOR THE FORD FOLKS, YOU'VE GOT TWO BIG FORD RACES COMING UP IN THE NEXT TWO RACES. IS THERE ANY EXTRA EFFORT YOU GUYS PUT INTO WINNING THOSE, OR EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE BIG FORD RACES DO YOU JUST LOOK AT THEM AS ANOTHER RACE ALONG THE WAY TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I guess, it's hard to take one race or a couple races and put a whole lot more effort into it, because they all do pay the points the same and that's what were chasing at the end of the year. But at Daytona, Michigan and some of these races we really make sure we work hard. Milwaukee was a big race for me; we weren't able to get a great result there. But there's a handful of events where you really try to bring the best and do your best. Not that we don't every week, but it is, it is more thought of, I guess. It's just not a regular old race that's sponsored by somebody else. But when it's sponsored by your brand manufacturer, you want go out there and represent and we definitely want to get a Ford in Victory Lane when Ford is sponsoring the event. We're looking forward to the rest of the summer and the rest of the season because our team is really hitting its stride over the past month and I don't see it slowing down. I see us getting stronger. The truck we're taking to Kentucky in a couple of weeks is the truck that we ran so well with Texas and got close to Victory Lane there, too. I just feel like we are all kind of gelling really well there as a team. They know what I need in the trucks now and I understand what they are giving me, so it's just really working nice right now."
COMING TO KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY, WHERE ROUSH HAS HAD SOME SUCCESS HERE, DARNELL JUST WON THE ARCA RACE THERE, YOU HAD A BUSCH RACE HERE WITH US AND YOU ENDED UP ON YOUR TOP ON THE BACKSTRETCH, IF YOU REMEMBER BACK THAT FAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING AT THIS TRACK AND HOW WELL ROUSH IS DOING? DOES THAT HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE COMING INTO THIS? "Kentucky is a pretty special place for me, sentimentally. When I first began racing in the Craftsman Truck series in 2001, Addington Racing took me to the Kentucky Speedway for the first test in the first real speedway that I drove at. It was the first place that I ever drove a Craftsman Truck Series truck at, so that kind of always makes me feel kind of special. I feel like that's the place that got me my job, know what I mean? It was really the break in my career. So, I enjoy going back there. I've had limited success there, really never did nothing real spectacular, except for getting on my roof in the Busch car, but I think this year is going to be a year that we can really break out and get into Victory Lane. Roush has had a lot of success here in the past. I know they just tested the ARCA car the other day with Peter Shepherd and they were just raving about the speeds they had again. So I just feel like the whole company has a good set-up there and good understanding. The Cup teams have tested there in the past and there's just a lot of information out there to draw from."
FOR YOU, GETTING A CHANCE TO DRIVE FOR ROUSH AND KNOWING HIS COMMITMENT TO THE TRUCK SERIES, CARL EDWARDS CAME THROUGH IT, GREG BIFFLE CAME THROUGH IT, NOW YOU'VE GOT ERIK (DARNELL) IN THERE AS WELL. DO YOU USE THAT AS A DEVELOPMENTAL TOOL? WITH THE CUP PROGRAM, IT STRUGGLED A LITTLE BIT. DO YOU THINK IT IS TAKING A STEP IN THIS SERIES WITH A MAJOR TEAM GOING TO HELP IN THE LONG RUN? "That's definitely the way I looked at it. Towards the end of last year, really the only opportunities for Nextel Cup were similar opportunities that I was in; teams outside the top 35, teams that were really struggling to get by, single-car teams and that sort of deal. I felt like I was young enough in my career to kind of take a step over into the Craftsman Truck Series. It kind of rebuilt my career, get back to winning races and be a contender for a championship. Down the road, hopefully an opportunity will present itself to get me back into a Nextel Cup car. The biggest thing that I took away from my two seasons in the Nextel Cup was the importance of teamwork in organizations that worked together and shared information. You've got to have the resources and sponsorship to be competitive and the right amount of testing. If you're off just a little bit in testing, it is a mile in Nextel Cup. I felt like this was an opportunity for me to get back to winning races and hopefully down the road, whether it is Roush Fenway or another organization, I'll have an opportunity to go Cup racing down the road."
JUST THE STRUCTURE OF THE SERIES, YOU'VE WON RACES AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE, IS IT A LITTLE TOUGHER IN THIS TRUCK SERIES KNOWING THAT THERE IS A LIMITED NUMBER OF RACES? YOU DON'T HAVE 36 AS YOU DO ON THE CUP SIDE. IS IT HARDER REALLY ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP PERSPECTIVE TO RACE IN THIS SERIES? I GUESS, LESS OF AN OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A BAD RACE? "Well, exactly, I think with 25 races and you have really, two or three bad races your chances are pretty much shot. You might be able to get away with one, maybe two, depending on how you do in the other events. In the Cup series, you have 10 more races to gain or lose points, it can go either way, I guess. In the truck series, you have probably only one or two opportunities to have a bad race and still be a contender. In 2003, when I won my championship, that was my focus to every race we went to. Just get out of there with the most points we could, bring the truck home in one piece and not do anything crazy. I think we had 22 top-10s out of 25 races and we only won one race, we were just really consistent, stayed on the laps, except for one and stayed out of trouble. That's the way we were able to win the championship. That kind of proves how consistency and being there at the end of the day really pays off. That's what it did for us in '03."
AFTER YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON IN 2003, YOU WERE TAGGED AS POSSIBLY ONE OF THOSE DRIVERS OF THE FUTURE AND THEN YOU GO TO CUP AND YOU MENTIONED YOU STRUGGLED A BIT. DO YOU THINK THIS SEASON HAS SORT OF REVALIDATED YOURSELF AS A TOP DRIVER AND TOP TALENT IN NASCAR, IN GENERAL? "I hope so. That was kind of my feeling. The last couple of years, when you're not in the headlines, not in the top 10 and not in Victory Lane, everybody kind of forgets about you. Luckily for me, Jack Roush and Geoff Smith and everybody from the Roush Fenway Racing team didn't forget about me. They gave me the opportunity to get in a top-notch truck with top-notch equipment. They gave me an opportunity to get back into Victory Lane and be a championship contender. When I met with Jack, that's exactly what he said. He goes, 'I know you haven't had the greatest couple of seasons, but we know you can go out there and win races and be a championship contender. That's what we are hiring you to do to.' It really made me feel good that there's somebody out there that knew I could get things done. Hopefully, with what we are doing this year we'll be able to prove that again, and, hopefully, the opportunities will come. I love where I'm at, with Roush Fenway Racing, and I give them a lot of credit for giving me this opportunity. Hopefully, something down the road will come up where we can get back into Cup racing again."
WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL FOR YOU, AS THEY ARE FOR YOU RIGHT NOW, WITH A BREAK IN THE SCHEDULE, WOULDN'T YOU RATHER BE IN THE TRUCK? "For sure. Let me tell you what: Earlier in the year, people are familiar with the truck series; the schedule is really broken up. You race, and then you have three or four weeks off. Earlier in the year, it was miserable. We were finishing 15th and 16th and we were really having a hard time getting the results. You have two or three weeks off you have to dwell on a 15th- or 16th-place finish, it's miserable. It's good right now, coming off a victory; we get to enjoy the thrill of it for a couple of weeks. But at the same time, I was talking to my crew chief right after the race about Kentucky, talking about the truck we're taking back, we just did a quick overview summary of what we needed for a set-up and bounce ideas off of each other real quick. It's nice to enjoy the moment and enjoy the fruits of your labor, I guess, but at the same time this sport is all about 'What have you done for me lately?' and we can't look past the weekends coming up. We're focused on Kentucky and IRP and the tracks down the road that were coming to. We definitely enjoy having a weekend off and enjoy spending Fourth of July with our families with a victory under our belt. But I know at the same time, the guys are back at the shop today looking forward and that's what I'm doing, too; looking towards Kentucky and how we can get another victory for our Roush Fenway group."
MOST DRIVERS WOULD RATHER RACE IN TRUCKS AND WIN RATHER THAT RACE IN CUP IN THE BACK. WOULD THAT BE FAIR TO SAY FOR YOU ANYWAY? "It's definitely a change of pace. We barely touched on it earlier. Especially last season, I was going to Cup events just to worry about Friday, just to get qualified in, and everything past that was great. Obviously we were trying doing the best job we could in the race and getting the best result. We put some much effort and emphasis on qualifying last year, it was really hard to focus much or pay much attention to our race set-up and stuff like that. And then go to a situation that I'm in now with the Roush Fenway truck team, we know and I know that we've got a shot at winning the race. We struggled in the first couple of weeks and along with that it took me a couple of weeks to get out of that mentality. I call it the 'on kill mentality' you go there to be the best guy and to lead the most laps, which is not a mentality that I had for the last couple of seasons. You've got to retrain yourself a little bit and get back really the aggressive mode, I guess, where you're the guy to beat, the 'king of the hill' type mentality. It's definitely nice. I enjoy winning races and running up front much better than just going there to try and make the event."
MOST DRIVERS RACE FOR THE MONEY. DO YOU MISS THE BIG MONEY THAT YOU COULD MAKE IN CUP? "Yes, there is a difference there, but I don't know. I still feel like down the road that I'll have that opportunity again. Believe me, five or six years ago when I was in living Wisconsin racing Late Models, I never would have dreamed of being a full-time NASCAR Craftsman Series truck driver making the money I'm making today. I definitely can't complain but there's a significant dollar difference, but you've got to weigh that against being competitive and winning races. I tell you what -- last year it just tears you up. I know talking to the guys that are outside the top 35, that's all you think about seven days a week. It's qualifying, getting into the race and the pressure from your sponsors, your team owner and everybody breathing down your neck. It's definitely nice to have no thoughts and worries about that, but to just go and focus on winning races. I don't know. In summary, I guess, I'd rather be up front winning races, for sure."
-credit: kentucky speedway