Travis Kvapil back on track
After an off-season of uncertainty, Travis Kvapil got back on the racetrack Wednesday with a part-time NASCAR truck ride and plans to be announced shortly for a Sprint Cup deal.
The 37-year-old from Janesville has a see-how-it-goes commitment from tiny MAKE Motorsports for the first few races of the year and possibly more. As a past series champion, Kvapil is locked into the field for the NextEra Energy 250 on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
“They're just a really small team; they've got a small shop, a couple of guys working on it, a couple of decent trucks,” Kvapil said before practice.
“Obviously, this team doesn't have the resources some of the top-five, top-10 teams have, but I feel like I bring a lot of experience and knowledge to a smaller team like this at a place like Daytona, using the draft and knowing what to do and putting the truck in the right spots. Anything can happen.”
Kvapil also said that within the week his “nearly full-time” Sprint Cup plans will be announced. He didn't identify the team but said it is on a similar level to BK Racing and Front Row Motorsports, two growing teams where he spent the past four year. Kvapil finished 27th in points in 2012 and 31st last year for BK. Neither he nor veteran teammate David Reitimann was retained.
“It's a small team over there,” Kvapil said, “but they made some moves in the off-season in some personnel and some other things, and they're trying to grow their program and get stronger so I'm happy to be a part of that as well, and I think I can bring a value to their team as well.”
Kvapil, who was charged last October with domestic assault on his wife, agreed Jan. 31 to serve two years of probation and perform community service as disposition case.
“To get through the off-season, get some off-track stuff behind you and move on and get behind the wheel and race—focus on that—for me, that's where I'm happy,” Kvapil said.
A crash in Daytona 500 practice Wednesday wiped out six cars and a portion of fencing along the front stretch at Daytona International Speedway.
Among those involved was Eau Claire, Wis., native Paul Menard, whose car got turned into the outside wall and served as a launching ramp for Parker Kligerman, whose car rode the wall, turned upside down and then slid along several hundred feet on its roof.
“It's typical, but it definitely was preventable,” said Menard, who was in the middle of a three-wide pack when he was hit in the right rear by Joey Logano. “We were three wide the first half of practice and beating on people's bumpers.”
Logano said he saw Matt Kenseth moving lower on the car and went to fill the hole before Kenseth came back up. They touched, and as Logano tried to slow, he was tapped from behind by Trevor Bayne, causing Logano's car to shoot to his left.
“Maybe I shouldn't have been racing as hard as I was there in practice, but everybody was in a big pack and trying to make things happen,” Logano said.
Logano and Kenseth, the two-time 500 winner from Cambridge, Wis., crashed together in the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night.
Logano, Menard, Brian Vickers, Kligerman and Ryan Truex were forced to backup cars, and Dave Blaney's team was looking for a spare. Several others were involved. No injuries were reported. They'll start at the rear of the field in their respective qualifying races Thursday night and again in the 500 on Sunday.
“Honestly, it sounds bad but you come to Daytona and Talladega expecting to get in a wreck and hoping not to,” Menard said.
“Our backup car's not as good as the primary but it's still damn good. All the (Richard Childress Racing) cars have really good speed. Our backup car is obviously not as good as our primary, but still I think better than most of these cars out here.”
The crash cut short the first of two practice sessions, and repairs to some fencing, one cable and a portion of the protective SAFER barrier took 90 minutes.
Toes in the water
Defending truck series Daytona race winner Johnny Sauter is entered for Saturday's Nationwide Series opener by former Indy-car driver Shigeaki Hattori.
Sauter, 35, of Necedah, Wis., and Hattori were connected by longtime crew chief Bruce Cook, Hattori's team manager. The car came from Kyle Busch Motorsports and engine from Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I've driven some Nationwide stuff the last couple of years, but it hasn't been anything to write home about,” said Sauter, a three-time winner in 202 starts in the division. “This is something that I feel like we could surprise a lot of people Saturday. We've just got to get in the show.
“It's going to be fun. No pressure.”
Hattori has fielded cars in the K&N East Series and Camping World Truck Series and is working toward Sprint Cup with five to 10 races this year and a full slate next year.
In the booth
When Allen Bestwick's IndyCar play-by-play duties for ESPN conflict with NASCAR broadcasts on the network, Dave Burns will fill.
Although this season is the last in ESPN's contract for the full Nationwide schedule and second half of Sprint Cup, Bestwick said the network won't go away quietly.
“It's in nobody's interest, personally or professionally, or the company's interest, business‑wise, to do anything but keep our right foot pressed all the way to the floorboards, and that's what'll happen,” Bestwick said.
“When we get to the end of the season and we're done with Homestead and we set the headsets down on the desk, I'm sure there's going to be a hell of a party, because you spend a lot of time with people who become like a second family to you, and when that run ends, it's a little tough.”