Travis Kvapil at Pocono earlier this year (photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)I had the opportunity to speak with Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 28 Hitachi “Inspire the Next” Ford Fusion, one-on-one before practice and qualifying today at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. I have to add that this is the first time I’ve interviewed a driver in person. The whole morning leading up to it my stomach was in knots and I was so incredibly nervous. In the end though, it went really well.

Travis was really nice and super easy to talk to, definitely a good guy with a realistic understanding of the sport of racing. I should confess that the real reason I’m breaking this interview up into two posts is that I forgot to bring my laptop charger. It never fails; I always forget something when I go on a trip. When I went to Chicagoland I forgot my toothbrush.

And so here’s the first part of my session with Travis. Part two should be posted sometime Tuesday after I get back home. I’ll also have a ton of other posts to share about my Labor Day weekend in general.

Me: What are the keys to this racetrack? What’s the key to being successful here?

Kvapil: California is a lot like all the other tracks we go to where you gotta have a car that really turns good in the middle of the corner and you get back to the gas really early, very similar to Michigan. Your car’s gotta be kind of nice and free and neutral and you gotta use that throttle peddle a lot on the exit. It used to be, with the older car, we really had a lot of downforce built into the car. With the new cars we’re just kind of locked into what we have. So really the aerodynamics aren’t as critical as what they used to be, I mean they still are, but it’s just that we can’t do nothing about it right now. You still have to have a good motor, good horsepower and it seems like with all of the big tracks fuel mileage plays a factor as well a lot of the times.

Me: So I know you haven’t been out there yet today, but do you feel like you guys have a chance at having a really good run today?

Kvapil: I think we will. I’m excited about it. We had a really good car here in February. We ran in the top 10 for most of the day and we had some issues in the race, we ground the splitter off the front of the car and we lost a couple laps trying to repair that. We had a good race here until that point in February. Very similar to Michigan; both our Michigan races we finished in the top twenty, ran competitively. Some of our best races this year have been on the mile and a half, two mile banked race tracks and this fits right in that mold. Definitely optimistic and looking forward to getting the weekend going and definitely feel like we could contend for a top ten.