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Nov 8, 2022
Carson Kvapil was legitimately overwhelmed by the success he enjoyed in his debut season driving a Late Model Stock for JR Motorsports, but his dad wasn’t.
Old North State Nationals.
CARS Tour Championship.
The younger Kvapil closed out on the championship with a race still to spare and that doesn’t even include the race he needed to sit out following an on-track incident at Tri County Motor Speedway -- the only blemish in an otherwise perfect season.
The 19-year-old could not feel any more pleased and accomplished with the results.
"It's rewarding to say the least," he told Racing America last week. "Going into this year, I was pretty nervous really. I knew that if we didn't run well, it wasn't going to be the car, it was going to be me. So, I was actually really nervous.
"A lot of work went into this season, focusing on the tracks, talking to Josh (Berry) whenever I could, and anyone I could to understand these cars. And now, I couldn't have asked for much more."
His father, Travis, the 2003 NASCAR Truck Series champion, expected it and not because he’s dad but due to everything he witnessed first-hand while working alongside his son while racing the family owned Pro and Super Late Model.
"I've said this jokingly in the past, halfway meaning it, but really serious: I feel like I was holding him back," the elder Kvapil said. "We have good race cars and good people helping me when we were racing these cars but look around this garage (at the All-American 400) and there are some brilliant minds.
"I'm a race car driver and not a crew chief, you know what I mean. I've driven race cars for the past 20 years and I was nowhere near the Late Model scene at all. What it takes to make these cars go fast, I was nowhere up to speed, and what it takes to make these cars go fast."
So, when they put together this Straight-Rail Late Model several years ago, it was just the father-son duo and the occasional helping hand, with a legitimate DIY approach.
Travis believed in the upside of Carson, not because he's dad, but because they have established a combined work ethic the past couple seasons inside the shop and at the track.
"We learned these cars on our own the past couple of years, and his feedback and feel for them is really incredible, and that's where we made gains and won races," Travis said. "So, he deserves a lot of credit. He's very hands-on, knowledgeable and knows how to put the cars together.
"I really had the expectation that when he drove for a quote unquote real race team, he was going to take off so seeing what’s happened this year hasn’t surprised me at all."
Travis said that people within JR Motorsports, or inside the industry have praised Carson to him for his feedback and approach, and all he can say back is 'I know' because he's lived it.
To the casual race fan who knows the name Kvapil and recognize Travis from the golden era of the sport, there was an assumption that Carson would have everything needed to advance all the way to the Cup Series and that just hasn’t been the case without the accompanying ethic and resolve.
For a variety of circumstances and timing, like most things in NASCAR, Kvapil didn’t become a Cup Series superstar but claims enough of a means to get his sons the equipment to learn but not the unlimited funding to buy a marquee development seat.
"As much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t just write a check and had him drive for Anthony Campi, Donnie Wilson or Willie Allen," Travis said. "We can do this, we can afford the car, but to write the check per race at that level, we just couldn't do that.
"Doing it this way was our only opportunity and Carson realized that -- and that is why he has worked so hard in the shop and on these cars."
Even now, JR Motorsports has Carson working out of the shop and working in every capacity to make up for the lack of a blank check. And really, he is a value add in that capacity, character traits valued by Chevrolet, the Earnhardts, Berry and LW Miller.
For what it’s worth, Carson does have some assistance through the manufacturer’s driver development program.
All told, next year will look a lot like this one for Carson, in that he will chase a full-time CARS Tour schedule, the Virginia Triple Crown and select regional Late Model Stock events across a scheduled 20-race campaign.
One difference is that Bass Pro Shops has joined the No. 8 team in a major partnership announcement that could prepare the younger Kvapil for the sort of sponsorship activations required at the highest levels of NASCAR.
"I'm super excited about it," Carson said. "Working with iRacing has been huge this past year but having Johnny Morris and Bass Pro on board is awesome. I'm going to get a lot of training on doing media and car unveils, and doing it hand in hand with Dale (Earnhardt) and Josh is an experience you can't get anywhere else."
Travis says they're always on the lookout for opportunities at the next level but it's okay that it might take longer than the teenagers that are pouring en masse into ARCA and Trucks these days.
For now, they have the chance to continue dominating Late Model Stock racing and doing alongside the most popular driver in the recent history of the sport.
"We're not bringing any money," Travis said. "Carson does have Chevrolet but not having big money or a sponsorship is going to slow down his steps, which is okay.
"We've talked about it: You are in the best situation in that you're driving the best Late Model Stock for the best owner, they need for nothing. So just go out there and win races and the opportunities will come."
Hopefully it doesn't take as long as it did for Berry, but he proof enough that simply winning every week eventually pays off when you're doing it for JR Motorsports and it's already started to grab the attention of decision makers in the business of racing on Sundays.
"I do think he will have some opportunities at the upper levels next year but with that said, we're in no hurry because he's in a great spot," Travis said. "He's 19, learning, maturing and receiving an education.
"Josh got this opportunity at 30 and he's knocking them dead. Growing up as a person and being more mature and becoming a man, if that means waiting a couple of years for the right opportunity, we're okay with that."
And that opportunity might could come with Bass Pro Shops, a long-time investor in the sport, and the defending CARS Tour champion hopes to grow with them for years to come if the opportunity is there.
"I don't know if there have been talks already about that, but I could certainly see that happening," he said. "I would like to have the opportunity. But my focus is just trying to grow as a racer, keep winning races and championships and be as prepared as I can for if that day comes."