There is a lot of uncertainty in the NASCAR garage right now. David Reutimann recently lost his job at Michael Waltrip Racing and Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, is another driver whose ride is in limbo.
I had the opportunity to interview Kvapil last weekend at Martinsville. Kvapil hasn't had a Top 10 finish since 2008 while driving for Yates Racing, but the No. 38 team achieved a major goal two races ago with a 21st-place finish at Talladega, moving into the Top 35 in owners' points and guaranteeing the team a starting spot in future races.
The main goal for the team over the remainder of the season is to stay in the Top 35 in owners' points, guaranteeing them a Daytona 500 starting position. Kvapil gave the team a boost by finishing an impressive 16th and on the lead lap at Martinsville.
Of course, Kvapil isn't certain he'll even be with the team in 2012. He certainly hopes to be and he's giving the team his best effort in the meantime.
"Looking forward, I'm not sure how it's going to work out. I hope I’ll be with the team, but we don’t have plans worked out past this year," Kvapil said. "I think leading into 2012 the big priority for the 38 car is keeping it in the Top 35 in points...Obviously, to start the year off guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500 and the first five races is a huge asset for this team, so that’s goal number one."
Kvapil discussed the challenges his underfunded team has faced throughout the season.
"We’ve had a lot of bad luck and misfortune and just odd things happen to us through the season to hold us back, but hopefully we got that all behind us and we’ve turned the page. The last month or so has gone really well, we’ve had some really good races, and so because of all that we got ourselves back in the Top 35 and we’re just maintaining through the rest of the year."
Kvapil has driven several seasons in NASCAR's Truck series, with nine wins and the 2003 championship to his credit. I asked him whether he'd consider moving back to the trucks if there was a good ride available.
"If there’s an opportunity, you’ve always gotta look at it," Kvapil said. "My goal personally is to be in the Sprint Cup series. I feel like I’ve proven myself at this level, and my biggest career challenge is to ultimately have success and to win races in the Sprint Cup series. I’ve been able to do that—win races, win the championship—in the truck series, so I kind of want to keep moving forward and accomplish the goals that I have."
Kvapil believes that his team is on the cusp of greater things, and hopes to stick around to reap the results of the labors during the past few seasons.
"Front Row Motorsports is a small team, but we’re growing. This is only its fifth or sixth year, and it’s made huge strides in all aspects from being a car that’s just there to a car that is competitive at times," said the 35-year-old driver. "We’re looking to make it a Top-20 car week-in and week-out, and I feel like our team, personnel-wise, is in place. Ford sounds like they’re possibly willing to help us out some more technically, and a few of those things fall into place, and this team can be pretty competitive. I’ve been here for two years now, and I’d like to stay with them and keep growing with them."
I asked Kvapil about the success of Regan Smith and the one-car Furniture Row Racing operation. Smith achieved his first career Cup series win at Darlington earlier this season. "That was really big for Regan. They have a great affiliation with Childress and engineering support, but still, they’re a single car team based out of Denver and doing their own thing. You look at Trevor Bayne, driving part-time in the Wood Brothers car, who was able to go out and win the Daytona 500.
"The way that NASCAR has the rules structured, everybody has a pretty small box to work in, and all the cars are as equal as they’ve ever been," explained the Wisconsin native. "Getting the right equipment, the right people around you, and maybe some sort of technical alliance with a bigger team, are the keys to the smaller teams finding success and having a chance to win races."
Kvapil isn't sure where whether he'll be returning to the No. 38 team in 2012, but with the success he has achieved in his NASCAR career, he should be able to find owners willing to offer him a ride at some level.