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Home race gives Kvapil shot to be weekend dad

By Raygan Swan / NASCAR.com
October 15, 2010

Travis Kvapil has yet to see his sons play soccer this season; he hasn't made a single game.

That's the price drivers pay when trying to balance parenting with the demands of big-time auto racing. You can't be every place at the same time.

I hate missing soccer games and other school activities, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

But Kvapil, who has three children -- two young boys and one teenage daughter -- will attempt to do just that this weekend and make up for missed moments with the family.

Before Saturday's Bank of America 500 even begins, Kvapil hopefully will have already completed a 5K run for charity, rooted and cheered at two soccer games and coached and encouraged at one flag football game.

Making up for lost time. That's the price race car drivers pay when the Sprint Cup Series comes to Charlotte, N.C., where drivers can spend a weekend sleeping in their own beds as most live in the area.

Since they're home for this race, everyone -- family, friends, neighbors, etc. -- wants time with their favorite driver.

So while most of the people who work in the garage are still asleep Saturday morning, Kvapil, his wife, Jen, and their 14-year-old daughter Kelsey will be up at 7 a.m. stretching for a run of more than three miles. The event, titled Lung Strong for the LUNGevity Foundation, is to benefit research for lung disease. For the Kvapil family it is also to honor Kelsey's soccer coach, Basil Mathew, who died from lung cancer two years ago. They will also dedicate their run to a family friend in their home state of Wisconsin who was just diagnosed with the disease.

From there the three will head to the soccer fields at 10:30 a.m. for Kelsey's soccer game, followed by 7-year-old Carson's soccer game at noon. Last on the agenda is the 1 p.m. flag football game where the entire family will be able to gather and end the afternoon. They'll have the dinner hour to take a breath and head out to the racetrack.

"With the 5K in the morning and the race at night, looks like I'm going to log about 503 miles on Saturday. I might need to sneak a nap in the hauler, but it's all for a great cause and it will be a special day spending it all with my family," said Kvapil, driver of the No. 34 Long John Silver's Ford.

Kvapil said racing is his passion; however, the travel is taxing, so when drivers are home they make the most of every minute.

Home Monday through Thursday, it is Dad who runs the carpool and chaperones the field trips and it is Dad who is on bedtime duty and in charge of signing the permission slips because once he leaves, all responsibilities fall on Mom.

"We are lucky my parents moved here from Wisconsin to help us, but really, this is the only life our family knows. Kelsey, our oldest, was 4 years old when Travis started in the [Truck Series]," said Jen. "We take the kids to the track occasionally, but now we let them make the choice because we want them to have normal childhoods -- you know, play soccer, go to high school football games, hang out at the mall, go trick-or-treating this year in the neighborhood."

In the recent past, the Kvapils celebrated Halloween in the motorcoach lot and may do the same at Talladega Superspeedway this year.

And while the weekend's family events may appear a bit one-sided at times, Kvapil admits there are payoffs.

"Like the time Kelsey got to meet Tom Cruise and have her picture taken with him," he said. "I hate missing soccer games and other school activities, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. [Thursday] I got to go to the pumpkin patch with my 3-year-old and his preschool. We have an offseason and take lots vacations where I don't have to worry about missing work."

All things considered, the parents say life in the Kvapil house is fairly customary and that's their intention. No private schools or special privileges.

But they can't control the actions of those outside their family that might upset the system.

"Funny story, back in 2003 when Travis won the Truck championship, he was on the cover of TV Guide," said Jen. "The kids in Kelsey's class kept bringing her copies of the magazine for her dad to sign and we figured out it was for the kids' parents at home."

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