ARCA’s Matt Kurzejewski Blessed with 2016 Opportunity
With the ARCA Racing Series seemingly poised to enter an extended period of growth, Matt Kurzejewski stands equally prepared to become the face of the tour moving forward.
There’s a great deal to like about ARCA this year, starting with the most diverse schedule in stock car racing, an expanding roster of talented drivers and the cost-conscious way in which it tries to conduct itself.
In many ways, Kurzejewski is the embodiment of the ARCA spirit.
He’s a young driver that competes for the love of the game while balancing a career away from the track. For Kurzejewski, that career is serving as director of operations at the family business, Costy’s Energy Service.
That combination of business savvy and professionalism, combined with the 2015 ARCA Superspeedway Challenge championship eventually led him to Ken Schrader Racing and a significant full-time sponsor in Menards and Ansell Protective Products.
“The best way to describe it is that it was a joint collaboration between myself, Ansell/Menards and Ken Schrader Racing,” Kurzejewski said. “It was a bunch of people coming together to make something happen and I couldn’t be more honored to drive the No. 52 for KSR and Ansell, Menards and Federated Auto Parts.”
Menards is also the title sponsor for ARCA, so driving that entry along with KSR will mean an increase in responsibility and pressure for the 25-year-old. Much in the way he inherited the sponsor from 10-time champion Frank Kimmel, Kurzejewski could be poised to inherit the role as face of the series too.
But Kurzejewski isn’t putting a lot of thought into that narrative.
He says he simply feels blessed to have this opportunity and just wants to prove himself worthy of the support by winning races and contending for the championship. That mission starts at Daytona International Speedway in two weeks as Kurzejewski, Schrader and veteran crew chief Donnie Richeson prepares to tackle the prestigious Lucas Oil 200.
“I can’t say enough good things about the people that Ken has surrounded himself with,” Kurzejewski said. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting JR Bishop and everyone at Federated — great people.”
Richeson has served as crew chief under Schrader for over a decade across a variety of disciplines and Kurzejewski already feels at home with the team that’s been assembled around him.
Kurzejewski said he only looked at the timing charts once during the entire weekend at Daytona testing in January.
“I didn’t have to,” Kurzejewski said. “I just knew we were good. That’s a rare feeling to come by.”
Even though Kurzejewski exclusively ran the superspeedways last season, he does have an extensive short track background and has made eight NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts in 2009. So in short, he doesn’t expect a steep learning curve.
“We should be okay there,” Kurzejewski said. “I even think I’m a pretty good road course racer, so I’m looking forward to New Jersey too. The small characteristics of Salem or Winchester will be tough to pick up on but KSR and Donnie have such a big notebook that I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Additionally, Kurzejewski doesn’t expect his rapidly expanding driving career to get in the way of his day job at Costy’s either. The extent of his obligations at KSR are to show up when asked, test and compete on race day.
But as a safe-guard, Kurzejewski has built a solid infrastructure back in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, should he ever need to take several days off.
“I have a great group of people that I work with that can run the business with or without me,” Kurzejewski said. “I plan to stay involved in the day-to-day operations but I’m going to stay true to my people. I’m going to try to spend as much time with the team as I can in North Carolina but I feel pretty good about striking a balance.”
And like any race car driver, Kurzejewski still dreams of NASCAR but is more than content if this is as far as he makes it in his career.
“I got to this point by racing week-to-week or season-by-season,” Kurzejewski said. “I realize that so many people have spent all of their money and time just hoping to get to this point. I don’t take that for granted. I’m so incredibly lucky and happy to be here.
“I want to enjoy this season and keep progressing. If I ever get the opportunity to move up, I’d definitely want to take it. But I feel at home here in ARCA. My focus is on 2016 and I just want to win.”
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