Going the Distance … with Dylan Kwasniewski
Each week, Popular Speed will ask a different NASCAR personality a handful of questions about their career, lifestyle or off-beat personality traits. Next up: One of the many talented rookies in the Nationwide Series — and a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing –Dylan Kwasniewski
Popular Speed: You haven’t been around for that long — but do you still feel the novelty and aura of getting to the track or has it become a job?
Dylan Kwasniewski: It’s a dream come true every time I get to step out here into one of these cars. All of these are new tracks and I still can’t believe that I’m racing in the Nationwide Series. (Huge grin) With a stage like this and the fans that show up to watch you race, I feel like it’s a huge opportunity and I’m living it up.
PS: What first attracted you to motorsports?
DK: The first time that I ever stepped into a car at four years old, when you step into a kart at four or five, there is nothing that compares. I played every sport and competed in everything possible but there is nothing more fun, more assuring, more exciting than racing cars at such a young age. From the moment I first stepped into the car, I knew this is what I wanted to pursue.
DK: I’ve always loved Formula 1 and though Michael Schumacher was the man. I feel the same way about Ayrton Senna, especially after watching the biography. He had such a badass personality in that he didn’t give a damn about what anyone else thought. He did his own thing, just wanted to race and I really admire that he just went out there and did his thing.
On the NASCAR side, it’s always been Jeff Gordon — he’s the man. I grew up watching him, rooted for him and to get to know him on a personal basis has been awesome. I also met Michael Schumacher as well … so to meet my childhood heroes and to have them know my name is a surreal feeling and hopefully it will stay this way for years to come?
PS: Would you have rather started your career 20 years ago or 20 years from now?
DK: That’s tough because I’m not even 20-years-old yet but I completely respect those guys. They just went out and got it done without all the technology we have now. It was based purely on if they were a good driver and you could make it without having to worry about corporate sponsors, forming the right persona and now you do.
With that said, I like that part of it. It’s more of a business now than just racing. I love being able to take a hold of my own business, my own brand, reach out to sponsors and mix that into the world of NASCAR. And with Rockstar, they took a chance on me and made it easier for me to not have to worry about that aspect.
PS: Who do you want to race against from another discipline in NASCAR?
DK: There are a lot of choices but Michael Schumacher, especially given what he’s facing right now, but he’s a legend and one of the best race car drivers in the world.
PS: Do you have a bucket list track that rises above all the other venues that you haven’t gone too yet?
DK: Talladega is going to be crazy. It’s going to be fun. I guess … Bristol was on my bucket list and that was awesome. It really fit my driving style even though it’s nothing like any other short track in the country. It’s ridiculous how much speed you carry through there.
I’m also looking forward to the road courses. Vegas, home, was one of my bucket list tracks which was unfortunate because we absolutely sucked there and had horrible luck. That place was important to me because I grew up racing at The (Las Vegas) Bullring and saw the big track in the background and wanted to race there.
PS: Have you ever raced with a serious injury?
DK: I did a Legends race with a broken arm once. I broke it the race before, my hand slipped off the wheel, I got hit again and it snapped it. I don’t know – I’ve got hurt racing quite a bit. The hit that I had at Loudon in the K&N East Series sucked a lot. I was blindsided and that took its toll. But luckily these cars are pretty safe.
PS: What is your favorite all-time paint scheme?
DK: I’ll tell you what, I really like (Dale Jr.’s) paint scheme right now. That gold number with the white and National Guard, it almost looks vintage. So I like that right now but I love my paint scheme too. My Rockstar Energy car looks awesome, especially on these Nationwide, especially with that badass Camaro nose.
PS: What is one make-or-break moment that has defined your early career?
DK: Honestly, that first championship I had in the Pro Series … out west. That showed my sponsors that I could make it in the sport and then I backed it up with the East championship and that was the key to my success, showed that I could get it done two years in a row, had a great group of people around me both years and showed Chip Ganassi and Turner Scott that I was ready to move right up to the Nationwide Series and compete right away.
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