Friday, June 1, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Teenage race car driving prodigy Dylan Kwasniewski is considered by several in the local motorsports community to be the next Las Vegan with a legitimate chance to go from competing at the Bullring at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to NASCAR.
If the predictions are correct, Kwasniewski would follow brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch as well as Brendan Gaughan in advancing from the local circuit to racing’s biggest stage.
Kwasniewski, who this week is finishing his junior year at Faith Lutheran Jr./Sr. High School, is currently the points leader on the K and N Pro Series West and receiving rave reviews for strides he’s made in his second year at this level. The series, which is comparable to baseball’s Double-A level, will be in town at 8 p.m. Saturday at the LVMS for the Star Nursery 200.
“He is a great young talent coming up in NASCAR, and I hope to see him go places,” said Greg Pursley, last year’s series champion and Kwasniewski’s teammate with Gene Price Motorsports. “We have been doing a lot of mentoring with him. I’ve been trying to tell him everything I have learned throughout the years, and hopefully it is working for him. It is pretty cool having two cars out of the same shop (having success).”
Off the track, he’s also proving to be years ahead of his age (he turned 17 on Thursday). During a Thursday press conference to promote the race, Kwasniewski showed his maturity by calmly answering questions from reporters with the cameras rolling, easily dropping in the names of his sponsors on multiple occasions like a seasoned racing veteran. After all, having the right sponsors — he’s with an energy drink and motor oil company — is half of the battle in succeeding in the sport.
Kwasniewski isn’t age-eligible to compete in racing’s top three classifications — NASCAR Trucks, the Nationwide Series or the NASCAR Cup Series — until next May 31 when he turns 18. Sounds like he’ll be ready if he gets the call.
“You always have to present yourself in a professional way,” Kwasniewski said. “Sometimes, you can’t act like you are a teenager. You have to act like you are an adult because it is an adult sport. I can still express myself like I’m 16, but when it comes time for it, I have to be professional about it.”
Kwasniewski, who last year was the K and N Pro Series Rookie of the Year, will be the first to confirm he’s still learning the ins and outs of being a successful driver. He also knows every race comes with the pressure that someone is watching to evaluate his potential at a higher level of competition.
He’s relied on the veteran Pursley — the 44-year-old has made a career of excelling in racing’s minor leagues — for assistance in several aspects of his development, everything from navigating an unfamiliar track to dealing with expectations of being a star in the making.
“These guys are doing the right job to put me in the right path,” Kwasniewski said. “Now I have to do my job and go out there and perform.”
Kwasniewski became the youngest driver to win a race on the K an N Pro Series last August when he led for 149 out of 152 laps at the Colorado National Speedway in North Carolina to capture the race in convincing fashion. The record he broke belonged to Joey Logano, who is one of NASCAR’s youngest stars. Yes, Kwasniewski appears to be that good.
It’s something Pursley sees each time they are on the track together.
“Last year, we were talking about winning races and he was in the background,” said Pursley, who won last year in Las Vegas as part of six victories on the tour. “Now, he is the forefront. It is pretty much all about him. He’s who we are all chasing. It is pretty cool to help bring up his raw talent. He learns pretty quick.”
Kwasniewski says a victory Saturday at his home track would be the perfect birthday gift. But before heading to the speedway for race week events, he’s back to his life as an average teenager with a pair of final exams Friday at Faith Lutheran. And, like most teenagers, he is a recently new “legal” driver, having received his driver’s license last year — but only failing the test the first time for a bad turn.
“I was heartbroken. That was pretty devastating” he said.