Finally, here is part two of my interview with 32-year-old Wisconsin native Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 28 Hitachi Power Tools Ford Fusion for Yates Racing.
I had intended to get this online yesterday but I didn’t get home until late Monday night after driving over 300 miles. Plus Tuesday morning I interviewed retired NASCAR driver and current ESPN racing analyst Dale Jarrett. So when you combine trying to come to terms with the fact that I did indeed speak to THE Dale Jarrett yesterday and the amazing birthday weekend I had at the Auto Club Speedway and the fact that I haven’t been feeling well these past couple of days it has led to me being very late with posting all of this stuff. So bear with me!
I know in part one of this interview I’ve already stated that Travis was super nice but I have to say it again and add that he was honest and forthcoming. I like writing about the Yates Racing guys because I feel like they’re in a very good position to do great things in their careers, their stories are just beginning really, and it’s nice to know that in meeting Travis it didn’t cause me to lose my belief that a win for him and his teammate are just around the corner.
Me: Looking at this year as a whole, do you feel like you guys have a chance to pull out a win this year?
Kvapil: Yeah, I think we do. When the year started we didn’t really know what our expectations were, really what we all had here. This team has really been rebuilt in this last year and [there have been] a lot of changes, new cars, a lot of new people, new driver/crew chief combinations, so you start the year off kind of not really knowing where you’re going to fall in. We’ve had cars, once or twice throughout the year that were capable of winning — both myself and the 38 — and we just haven’t quite got it done. It’s tough, we need to be more consistent, run at the top ten every week before I feel like we can truly be a contender for the win. But we see it a lot in the sport where teams that run kind of in the middle of the pack can get a win here and there. I definitely think we can run better than middle of the pack most of the year but I guess that’s kind of what I’m getting at, we definitely have a shot.
Me: What has it been like to have David [Gilliland] as a teammate? He’s said that you guys like the same things in your cars.
Kvapil: It’s been great. I didn’t know David until this season. Definitely the things we put into our race cars set-up wise it translates to the 28 and the 38, it works for both of us. Another cool thing, off the race track our lives and how we got involved in racing and our families is all very similar. We’re married with kids and we grew up around the race track, worked on cars our whole lives, our parents own shops and things like that. So I think we relate to each other really well on that side too and we feel comfortable working with each other. It’s great that we find similarities in our race cars, so it’s been really good.
Me: Speaking of your family, how much do they mean to your racing and what is like being away from them and having such a crazy schedule? How do you deal with that?
Kvapil: It’s tough. I have two kids in school now and it’s hard to spend as much time as you’d like with them and see them do their activities and sports and things like that. But definitely Monday through Thursday I’m with them as much as I can be, and a lot of the races around the Charlotte area they all come to, especially in the summer time when they’re not in school. They understand, ya know, this is what I do and we definitely try to make it work as well as we can, especially in the summer time we do a lot of activities and things together to have that special time when we can.
Me: So speaking of your fans, I know that you and David both have message boards that are very active and I know they all really support you. What do your fans mean to you and do you ever go online to the message boards?
Kvapil: Yea, I check it out quite a bit, couple times a week, just to see what they’re talking about, see what their interests are. I definitely don’t post as much as I need to, only a couple times a year if that. It means a lot to me, it really does. To be a Cup driver was something that I never dreamed of growing up, to have fans and people that pull for me, I just never envisioned it. So it’s really cool to have our special group that pulls for me and it’s just really neat. You can’t really describe it. I remember when I first started to experience it, you wanted to get to know these people on a more personal basis and the more the sport grows in popularity it’s tough to have that. But it’s nice, they do have a couple gatherings a couple times a year and it’s always nice to stop in and see them and make sure they know I appreciate their support.
Me: And they’ve been very involved in the whole sponsor issue. They’re very aware of that and how much it affects you and the team.
Kvapil: That’s really good. We’ve had several sponsors on the car and it truly does make a difference when they email the sponsor and tell them we bought your product because you’re on this car and we support Travis. It really does make a difference. The sponsors they see that, they get that and they realize there is value in sponsoring Yates Racing. They definitely need to keep that up, that’s a good thing and we really do appreciate it.
Me: Your truck experience, does that help you in Cup? How much does it help?
Kvapil: I think biggest thing is with this new car it has some similarities of what the trucks did have in aerodynamics and things like that. I guess the biggest thing the Truck Series offered me was an opportunity to get on all of these tracks, most of these tracks in a lower-tier division. The Truck Series offers a lot of veteran drivers, ya know, they’ve got [Mike] Skinner, and [Ron] Hornaday, and [Jack] Sprague, and Todd Bodine, ya got [Johnny] Benson and [Ted] Musgrave. All these guys that have been Cup racing in the past, they’re fierce competitors and they race really, really hard and it’s different than the Nationwide Series.
The Nationwide Series seems to have a lot of young guys and the Truck Series has a lot of these veteran drivers that are, I mean, they race really, really hard. It’s great to have to go up against that competition and race those guys week in and week out and race for a Championship. It taught me a lot, how to race competitively, how to race hard, be respectful of each other and not tear up your equipment. The Truck Series was a great stepping stone for my career for sure.
Me: With Silly Season going on, it seems like all year long nowadays, how much do you think about that? Doug Yates says that he wants to keep you and David, but how much do you think about that? How secure can you possibly you feel? Do you feel like this is where you want to be?
Kvapil: I feel pretty secure; this is definitely where I want to be. I really enjoy what Yates Racing has built and our alliance with the Roush Fenway group has been phenomenal with their support. But it still comes down to the bottom line, ya gotta have sponsors and I understand that. They’ve done a great job piecing it together this year for both teams. I just really hope that some of these people that we’ve had on the car we can get them on board for next year and we can keep it going.
I feel pretty optimistic about that, but I try not to worry about it. I mean, the biggest thing is we go out there and perform and run good. That makes us much more sellable. Sponsors are obviously much more interested in teams that are running up front than in the back. So that’s been our focus from day one, is to go out there and perform and let that take care of itself. That’s kind of been our objective all year and for the most part we’ve accomplished that. We fell into a little bit of a slump there for a few weeks and we dropped back in points a little bit, but we’re going to rally hard and hopefully get ourselves back into top twenty in points before the season is over and hopefully in doing so we’ll have some color on the car next year.