BK Racing, Kvapil doing it their way
Mar 14, 2012 at 9:58 PM
The decision to restart the Daytona 500 after a lengthy delay ruined two Cinderella stories.
It cost Dave Blaney a victory in the No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing car, and even more surprising Landon Cassill was denied a runner-up finish for BK Racing.
The BK Racing team didn’t move into its Statesville, N.C. shop until three weeks before the start of the Daytona 500 and most race fans weren’t even aware of their existence.
To those still not familar with the team, BK Racing was formed by a group who owned the TRG Motorsports No. 71 car, along with Thomas Uberall, the former race director for Red Bull Racing.
They acquired the assets of the Red Bull team following it being shut down. Now, BK fields a two-car team with Cassill in the No. 83 Toyota and Travis Kvapil in the No. 93 Toyota.
BK gets its name from Burger King franchise owner Ron Devine’s stake in the team, while Kvapil, 36, brings the experience of an eight-year Sprint Cup Series veteran to this Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For Kvapil, it’s an opportunity to help build another team after spending the past two seasons with Front Row Motorsports.
“I feel like the race cars are top notch equipment,” he said. “It’s just everything is new, new, new. It’s just being here six weeks doesn’t give you a whole lot of time.”
Still, there isn’t a better place for Kvapil to race than Bristol Motor Speedway. He won at the high-banked oval in 2003, on his way to the NASCAR Truck Series championship. That was, however, on the old track configuration before the concrete was resurfaced in 2007.
“I definitely enjoyed racing on the old surface, he said. “My first time there in 2003, I left with the trophy. I always loved that old-style race track, and felt I had a good feel for it.
“The new track though is so much fun, when you race two and three-wide. The first race I raced there after they reconfigured the track was the 2007 truck race. I was leading with a few laps to go when the 51 (Kyle Busch) turned me around. So, Bristol is a place I’ve always been able to get around pretty good.”
Kvapil, who raced against NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth on the Wisconsin short tracks, has driven for some of the sport’s high-profile teams. He entered the Cup Series as a rookie for Penske Racing, but a lack of experience for both he and crew chief Shane Wilson led to disappointing results.
He also raced in the Truck Series for Roush Racing, and competed for Yates Racing until the team lost sponsorship.
“There are a few opportunities that I wish I could get back,” he said. “When I drove the Kodak 77 car in 2005, it was really before Penske Racing implemented working as one team.
“We had three teams with me, Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman, but we all worked on our own. We didn’t have the experience and needed support, but it wasn’t there. I felt like we were coming along, but we needed more time to develop the team. Then, Kodak was going through some tough times and was leaving the sport.”
He also lamented how sponsors didn’t come through with the funding at Yates Racing, a year after the team finished 23rd in points.
Then came the past two years with Front Row Motorsports, where Kvapil and teammate David Gilliland worked closely together to keep the underfunded team among the top 35 in points.
Now, it’s a similar challenge with BK Racing, which has a small group of employees when compared to the mega operations of Penske, Roush and others like Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.
While small in numbers, Kvapil believes the No. 93 team can post some solid results like a 19th place at Phoenix two weeks ago.
“I can’t tell how excited I am with the potential this team has,” he said. “You have owners who are committed to making it a success. They are taking it one step at a time, building this program one step at a time.
“We aren’t expecting to go there, competing for wins, and making the Chase right out of the box. But, we expect to get a good solid points foundation and we can get better as the season progresses. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we will be competing for top 10 and top fives.”
Jeff Birchfield is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.