Family Atmosphere Surrounds Kvapil’s Xfinity Debut

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Carson Kvapil is making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut Saturday night. (Jacob Seelman/Race Face Digital photo)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The family environment surrounding Carson Kvapil’s NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Martinsville Speedway is strong, if not a bit poetic.

Kvapil, a second-generation driver from Mooresville, N.C., is making his first start at NASCAR’s second-highest level at the same track that his father – 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil – made his first NASCAR Cup Series start at two decades ago.

That’s before mentioning Saturday’s DUDE Wipes 250 at the .526-mile paper clip also features the tie-in of the Earnhardt family, as the younger Kvapil will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

It’s a situation that adds up to a big weekend for the 20-year-old Kvapil, the two-time and defending zMAX CARS Late Model Stock Tour champion who will miss Saturday’s CARS Tour stop at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway while racing at Martinsville on the biggest stage he’s been on so far in his racing career.

“This weekend is such a huge opportunity for me, and I can’t thank everybody enough that’s helped me get to this point,” Kvapil told Motorsports Hotspot in advance of his debut. “It goes back to everybody that was a part of the early days, in outlaw karts and everything else, before I even got to run the JRM late model and got to where I am right now. You know, Kelley, LW [Miller], Dale Jr., they’ve all been behind me and part of that huge support network that you have to have in this sport.

“You can’t do it at this level alone. You’ve got to have people on your side, and I’ve been blessed to have a lot of them in my corner,” Kvapil added. “It’s a lot of unknowns, for sure, but a challenge I’m excited for.”

While Kvapil’s current ties to JR Motorsports are well documented, as he’s driven for JRM since 2022 and earned some of the organization’s biggest late model accolades, he admitted that the chance to drive an Xfinity Series car wasn’t something that he had on his radar “really at all” going into this season.

“It definitely wasn’t something we’ve had planned for a while,” tipped Kvapil of his impending Xfinity Series debut. “It was something that just kind of came together in the last few months, but when a chance like this comes along, it’s something you can’t pass up and I really hope to make the most of it.”

Though Saturday will be Kvapil’s maiden voyage in the Xfinity Series, it won’t be his first time on track at Martinsville.

Kvapil has two starts in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 – Martinsville’s annual crown jewel late model stock car event – to his credit, with finishes of second (2022) and third (2023) where he contended to win both races.

While he doesn’t yet have a winner’s grandfather clock from Martinsville, Kvapil believes his past late model experience there will shorten his learning curve in the heavier Xfinity Series machinery.

“I think it’s huge, just having the track time, even though the cars themselves are somewhat different,” he explained. “I don’t know what to expect, but I feel like the Xfinity car is decently close to a late model, at least with the base chassis. It’s got a little more power and it’s a little heavier, but it’s just another race car. You just have to drive it a little differently.

“The big thing is that I feel like Martinsville is pretty straightforward. I think, about the middle point of the race, I’ll have some confidence and I’ll just go on from there and see what we can do.”

Guided by crew chief Andrew Overstreet, Kvapil will have “a lot of learning” to do over the course of 250 laps Saturday night. He got a head start on that process a week ago at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, when he was listening on the radio to Bubba Pollard’s Xfinity Series debut.

Pollard placed sixth in that event, giving Kvapil the belief that he’s capable of running well in his own right.

“It was one of those things where I felt like I know what to do on the track, but it's the off-track stuff that I needed to learn,” Kvapil said. “Being at Richmond, just seeing what Bubba had to do on race day and how he treated practice, that was good. I was able to listen to T.J. (Majors), the spotter, and how he and Andrew worked together with Bubba, got to watch the pit stops, and just got used to the order of events.

“We know the team has speed, which is important for a driver’s confidence. I’m excited for it.”

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Carson Kvapil in action Friday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. (Jacob Seelman/RFD photo)

Kvapil qualified 12th Friday, alongside fellow rookie Jesse Love and ahead of Kaulig Racing veteran A.J. Allmendinger and his own JRM teammate, Sammy Smith.

But despite his enthusiasm, Kvapil admitted he’s “not sure what to expect” come race time and doesn’t want to set the expectations too high for himself.

“I honestly don’t quite know what to think,” admitted Kvapil. “I’d love to set the bar really high going in, but at the same time, the Xfinity field is tough and the guys who do it every week aren’t going to lay over for a rookie. I know that and I’ll be working to race smart and earn respect.

“As long as everything goes well, I think we’ll have a pretty good run, but I just have to stay out of trouble and be there at the end.”

And Kvapil has, in fact, thought back on his father’s Cup Series career, which began in Southern Virginia in 2004 and paved the way for his own NASCAR path to reach new heights this weekend.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said of starting his Xfinity Series career where his father’s Cup Series debut occurred. “I feel like Martinsville is the track where a lot of people make their first starts in the top three series. I’m super pumped about even having the opportunity to race in the Xfinity Series with this great group of guys here at JRM, and hopefully we run well and finish better than my dad did! That’s the goal.”

For those keeping score, Travis Kvapil qualified fifth and finished 21st, on the lead lap in a race won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jimmie Johnson.

That makes a potential top 20, and bringing home a clean Chevrolet, the main targets for Carson Kvapil.

“We want to have a really good finish, obviously, but I’m more focused on just finishing the race,” said Carson. “Getting through my first race, and getting some good experience before I go on to my next one … whenever that ends up being, those are the main goals.”

Coverage of Saturday night’s DUDE Wipes 250 at Martinsville Speedway is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET, live on FS1, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.