CONCORD, N.C. — Story and audio by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America photo —
Coming off a full NASCAR Nationwide (now XFINITY) season in 2014, Dylan Kwasniewski found himself in an unfamiliar spot this year.
The 19-year-old Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates development driver is sitting on the sidelines for the time being. Sponsorship didn’t materialize for Kwasniewski — who was originally going to run some races in the No. 42 NXS car in 2015.
“Just working on sponsorship, it’s a part of the racing deal,” Kwasniewski said. “I still travel to all the races with the Ganassi guys and support my teammates. Have to get the money to go there and run and everybody’s working hard, so hopefully we’ll be out there soon.”
Kwasniewski was in the No. 42 Cup pit for Kyle Larson in last Friday’s Sprint Showdown before going to the No. 1 pit to support Jamie McMurray in Saturday night’s All-Star Race.
In the mean time, the Las Vegas native continues to train with a number of different work-outs, including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and boxing regimens. Kwasniewski has been also getting into cycling, even getting to train with six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
The two have talked about racing and Johnson has given Kwasniewski advice on some of the sport’s premier tracks.
“He’s a down-to-earth-guy,” Kwasniewski said of Johnson. “He’s into cycling and I got to train with him a little bit and pick his brain.”
Johnson isn’t the only driver helping the young gun out. Kwasniewski’s CGR teammates, McMurray and Larson, also help him out and give advice to the young driver.
“There’s a lot of guys in the garage and everybody’s willing to help,” Kwasniewski said. “It’s definitely a great sport to be a part of and very thankful to have these people in the sport.”
The 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion made the move to North Carolina after signing a deal to drive the No. 98 Royal Purple/RockStar Energy Drink Chevrolet for the now-defunct Turner Scott Motorsports team in 2013. Kwasniewski won in his first K&N East start with TSM at Bristol in March, which was the start of six wins on the season.
The TSM driver put the icing on the cake by winning the East Series season finale at Road Atlanta and locking up the 2013 East title. When Kwasniewski became the first driver to win the West and East championships in back-to-back years, sponsor RockStar Energy Drink wanted to move the Las Vegas hotshoe up the ladder to NNS (now NXS).
“Realistically, I should of been in a little bit of Trucks before I jumped in, but that’s what the sponsors wanted to do,” he said. “I felt like I was able to get up there and show the guys that I could race.”
Kwasniewski won the pole in his NNS debut at Daytona and recorded an eighth-place finish. The showing was one of three top-10s in his rookie campaign. Not only was he in the No. 31 car for most of the reason, Kwasniewski hopped behind the wheel of Larson’s No. 42 car for the stand-alone races as well.
He took home an 11th-place points finish in his first year in NASCAR’s top three series, but had some obstacles along the way.
“Overall, it was a decent year,” Kwasniewski said. “I made a lot of mistakes. I wish I could go back on and fix, but that’s what I thought this year was going to be for. Unfortunately, we can’t do that this year, but hopefully in 2016, we can improve on the mistakes that I did.”
“I’ll be better as a driver, be more patient, and hopefully prove to the whole world we can actually race and have the finishes that we deserve.”
Kwasniewski is in a similar spot like his CGR NXS teammate Brennan Poole was the last couple years. Poole served as a spotter, driver coach and occasionally drove for Venturini Motorsports before signing with CGR for a part-time NXS deal in the N0.42 DC Solar Chevrolet this season.
“I’m in the shop two times a week, at least, training with the pit crew guys and trying to work on sponsorship,” Kwasniewski said. “Staying relevant, staying with these guys and showing everybody that I’m not giving up and I want to be back out there.”
While Kwasniewski finished a career-best of eighth twice in the 2014 season, most recently at Mid-Ohio last August, what the future holds for the NASCAR Next alumni is still unknown.
However, the 19-year-old is doing everything he can to get himself back in one of NASCAR’s top-three series.
Listen in as our Kyle Magda caught up with Dylan Kwasniewski before the 31st annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race: