- Marty Smith, NASCAR
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Travis Kvapil had an inkling he was headed back to the Cup Series after discussing potential opportunities with Roush Fenway Racing executives for a couple of weeks. Sponsors, they said, were interested. Midweek meetings were scheduled to discuss prospective partnerships.
So when Kvapil entered what he thought was a sponsor's meeting and saw Doug Yates sitting at the table, he merely assumed a Roush/Yates engine department powwow had run long and Yates would soon scurry along.
Nope. Yates stayed, and joined Jack Roush in telling the driver his future was in the No. 88 Yates Ford, which would be an extension of Roush through a new partnership between the organizations.
"It really caught me off guard," Kvapil said Monday, chuckling. "It all came together in a short period of time on my end. Thursday or Friday is when it all started to come together. It was really only a matter of a couple days. It's crazy -- you just never know what tomorrow's going to bring."
Kvapil said many details are still not finalized. He's uncertain who will sponsor him, but said "it all sounds promising." He hasn't been promised he'll have a ride if sponsorship doesn't materialize, he said.
"To be honest with you we haven't even really talked about any of that stuff yet," he said. "I'd hope to think so. It takes a lot of money to run these cars, but we just haven't gotten to that point yet, but I'd like to think with Roush Fenway's marketing we'd be able to swing a couple deals for that car and fund it for a season."
But what about now? The current full-time driver in the No. 88, Ricky Rudd, is week-to-week with a left shoulder separation. He's uncertain whether he'll return. Veteran Kenny Wallace replaced Rudd at Richmond last weekend and finished 28th, but might Kvapil take the seat early, before the end of '07?
"I know it's been kicked around. We talked Thursday and Friday about it," he said. "We just don't want to get the cart before the horse going into these next couple of weeks, here. Not sure right now, but we have talked about it."
Dover, Kvapil said, presents the lone obstacle. While the Busch and Cup Series are at The Monster Mile, the Craftsman Truck Series is in Las Vegas. With three victories in the past eight races, Kvapil currently ranks third in the 2007 CTS standings.
"Everything else we can do," Kvapil said. "The way I look at it, they know how to get ahold of me. If they want to throw me in the seat, I'm ready to go. We really want to see [Rudd] get back in there and finish his career out on a high note. But I'm ready to go."
As for next year, Kvapil hopes to run a Busch Series slate to supplement this Cup schedule.
"In the past month or so, in conversations with Jack Roush and Geoff Smith, we've been talking about doing a Busch deal next year for me, so I think that's something we're still working on," Kvapil said. "Part time? Full time? Not sure.
"I'd like to throw some Truck Series races in there, too. It's a blast in the Truck Series. This is all so new. It all came together in a few days. There's still a lot of details to work out.
"This really caught me off guard. I had no clue. Thursday morning I thought I was just going in to talk to a sponsor about a potential deal. By Thursday evening I had a pretty good idea I might be in the car next year. It's funny how the stars all line up sometimes."
Marty Smith covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.