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April 15, 2014

Ben Kennedy

Dylan Kwasniewski

Darrell Wallace, Jr.

THE MODERATOR:¬† Good afternoon, everyone.¬† Today we're joined by three up‑and‑coming drivers from the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, all of whom are current or former members of the NASCAR Next program.¬† With us today, we have Dylan Kwasniewski, driver of the No. 31 Rockstar Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.¬† Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the No. 54 ToyotaCare Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports and the NASCAR Camping truck World Series, and Ben Kennedy, driver of the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports, also in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Dylan, Darrell and Ben, the 2014 NASCAR Next class will be announced next Friday at Bristol International Raceway.  As current and former members of the program, can you talk about how the program has helped you advance in NASCAR's developmental and now national series?  We'll start with Dylan, if you don't mind?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  Yeah, I appreciate you guys having me.  I think the biggest part is it just gets us used to the media, with being involved with such a great class.  You've got the best talent pool that's out there and up and coming.  You get to talk to the media and make friends off the track that you wouldn't normally want to since you have to compete against them.  So you get to know your competitors well.  You get to know, hopefully, the people that you'll be racing against for a very long time.
But I think the biggest thing, like I said, getting used to the cameras, being more acclimated to talking with everybody, and kind of just getting used to being in the spotlight because hopefully we will be in it in the future to come.
DARRELL WALLACE JR:  Yeah, just to follow a little on what Dylan says, it gets you used to everything.  You get to do so many things that you didn't think you'd be able to do.  It's just a lot of fun to be able to race with your peers and be along with them.  And at such a young age group, you get to have a lot of fun.  It's not so much different like out on the racetrack.  Growing up it was you racing against the older guys and not really knowing where you stood, and now it's a young generation coming through, trying to make their mark on NASCAR and make history.  That's what it's all about.  So bringing in new faces is awesome to be a part of.
THE MODERATOR:  Finally, Ben?
BEN KENNEDY:  Yeah, I feel like I'm always last with these questions, but I feel like Dylan and Darrell pretty much summed it all up.  I think the program has been great being in it the last year.  It really gets you a lot of exposure in front of the media a whole lot.  It gets you what I whole lot more comfortable being in the spotlight and everything.  Being able to work with all these great drivers, it made a really good bond with everyone throughout the whole program.
It's cool because at different venues, I know we went to Chicago last year and did that, and went down to Homestead, and did a little deal with the school and everything.  So it's cool to go to all these different venues with your fellow drivers.  I think our NASCAR Next class has some real potential to be in the Cup series one day.

Q.  Ben, you've been on such a roll starting out the season so strong.  Obviously, you come from a famous family.  Do you sort of feel like you almost have to race with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder to kind of prove to everybody that you've got the chops and you're not just from a famous family?
BEN KENNEDY:  You know, it's definitely there, and my family has been supportive throughout the whole process coming up through the ranks and everything.  It's definitely there, there is a little bit of pressure to it.  To be honest, when we get in these cars and everything, it's game time.  Any driver out there will have pressure on their shoulders to perform and compete.  Especially coming up in a national series.  We all want to be Cup drivers eventually.  There is definitely that pressure that everyone's watching you.  So, it's definitely there.  If anything, it's a little more motivation for me.

Q.  Ben, what is the best advice that you've gotten from your mom or from your uncle Brian?
BEN KENNEDY:  Just really pursuing what you enjoy in life.  They're really strong supporters of my racing.  I've always been around the sort of business side of the sport I guess you could say.  I think it's really opened their eyes having someone in their family that's a competitor in the NASCAR National Series.  So it's just being open to everything and leaving the doors open.
I'm getting in a couple of weeks here I get my degree in sports management.  So sort of having that in my back pocket gives me a little confidence too that, hey, if this racing thing doesn't necessarily work out, that I'll have something to go to, and something to sort of be able to rely on to keep those doors open.

Q.¬† For Ben, here we are, eight races into the Cup season, we've got six or seven now into the Nationwide season.¬† You guys have been on track twice.¬† So how do you handle this on‑again off‑again, at least in the early going of the season?¬† What's that allow you to do having those gaps?
BEN KENNEDY:  Yeah, it's definitely a little bit different.  You sort of sit down and watch a Nationwide and Cup race every week, and it's taking even more and more to get back out on the racetrack.  Having Daytona and then Martinsville really spread out was a little bit different.  Then we have a couple more weeks here until Kansas.  So looking at the schedule after we pass Kansas we'll get into a rhythm, and I know we have testing coming up too.
Just trying to stay as fresh as possible.  Making sure we do our homework on the forefront, get it out of the way.  So when we hit Kansas and hit Charlotte the week after that we're ready to go and ready to go for the season.

Q.  Bubba, similarly, Daytona Super Speedway, lot of time and effort goes into that, and then you go to one of the shortest tracks on the circuit at Martinsville.  What about the rhythm of all of those breaks?  Do you kind of take Daytona as a one deal and spend the next few weeks preparing for Martinsville and really look toward the season as a whole?  How do you deal with these gaps in the early going?
DARRELL WALLACE JR:  Yeah, that is the biggest thing.  Daytona wasn't the best race, so we threw that out the window.  I said it multiple times.  We talked to Kyle and my crew chief Jerry about starting over at Martinsville, and getting a fresh start there and we had come out and finished second.  That was a good start.  We were very close to winning, but it got us back up in the points.  We're eighth now from 21st.  It shows the commitment of my guys.  We're starting there.  Although this break is kind of killing us.  We're trying to carry that momentum from Martinsville on to Kansas, so it's a little tough, but I'm trying to have fun as much as I can, getting in and out of the shop as much as I can, checking on the progress of all the trucks that are being built.
Like Ben said, we have some testing coming up.  I know we have a tire test at Dover, so we're going to be doing that fairly soon, so I'll get that bug to get back in it here shortly.  Very excited to get back in my Toyota Tundra, and go for a another win at Kansas.

Q.  I'm just curious, you know, regular people have bad days in the office and just kind of tough days that you go through.  I'm curious, what's been a tough day in your office in the sense of in the car?  Was there one race that was just really physically demanding?  Was there a race because of health issues or kind of ill that that was always a tough race to get through?  What was probably the most challenging race to get through based off how you felt in the car for whatever reason?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  Yeah, I mean, I guess the most two recent ones, I mean, Darlington was a tough day at the office for me.  We struggled in practice.  First practice we struggled really bad.  Second practice we had engine issues, so I got 50 laps of practice shortened at a track I've never been to.  I've never set eyes on it.  So when you're a rookie going into these races trying to compete against these guys who have been here for countless many times and many years in the past, you really need every single lap to get up to speed.
So we went out in the race, struggled a little bit at the beginning and then started to get our car better.  Got up to around 11th place and got involved in a little accident which I put myself in a bad spot, and those days are just frustrating because you want to get as much laps as possible.  You want to get the best finish as possible.
So when you are out there and you're struggling all weekend long and you do have these problems, it really takes a toll and it's definitely frustrating to say the least.  But you've got to move on.  You've got to know that there's going to be many more races to come.  It's a very long season, and you're going to have time to improve on that.  But definitely these last two races at Texas and Darlington have been bad days at the office for sure.
DARREL WALLACE JR:  To back that up, well, I can't back that up because I don't race with him.  But I go back to last year and Daytona, for example.  When you're just running your own race and you get caught up in something that you have no control, and that's pretty frustrating.  Especially when you know you have a truck that is capable of winning or winning or running top 5 and it just shortens up out of nowhere.  Daytona and California are the racetracks that are on the iffy list.  You just have to watch out for everything.  Sometimes you're watching out for it, but you're still involved.
Other races like last year at Charlotte and Kentucky, coming down to the last three our four laps we wreck out at Charlotte and set an outside pole at Kentucky.  Really fast get caught up on pit road, get frustrated at the little things and that ends up costing us the race at lap 87.  Took us out of contention.  That could have been one of our wins last year.
Looking back on it, the most frustrating thing about last year is looking back at how many races we were faster than Kyle at.  Every race it seemed like we wrecked out, he would win.  So there were a couple of races that we should have had on our win list, but that's just part of the rookie blues and the rookie stripes.  So I definitely know what I have to do now this year and use that as motivation to go out there and perform better.  I'm using our motto.  It's just better every finish from last year.
So our spring race at Martinsville, we finished fifth.  This year we finished second.  So we're going to go try to finish better than 7th at Kansas, so that's our goal.
BEN KENNEDY:¬† I don't know if I have any specific bad days at the racetrack or anything.¬† The place we've sort of struggled at in year's past is NewHampshire.¬† For some reason every time it's off turn two there we get some sort of bad luck.¬† The past two K&N races there have just been average all day throughout practice and qualifying and everything.¬† Just every time off the‑‑ just the last two years we got T‑boned there pretty bad, and three of us went to the hospital afterwards.¬† Last year we make it halfway through the race and everything's going good, and we get in another wreck over there.¬† So NewHampshire hasn't been too nice to me lately.¬† So I'm excited to go back there in a truck and sort of see if we can't figure that place out for once.

Q.  For all three guys, if I could.  You know, racing at the NASCAR level is all about speed.  Being that you're kind of new to all of this moving up, anyway.  What did you have to learn the fastest.  What learning curve do you have to hurdle first, do you think?  What advice have you gotten from veteran drivers?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  I think this year has been way different than any other racing I've been used to.  Obviously the competition level has increased tenfold, even more.  So you go out there and try to go race on these tracks that you've seen on TV, you've watched video of, you know what it looks like when you step on to it for the first time and you're trying to get up to speed as quick as Kyle Busch and Joey Logano and all these other Cup drivers that are racing on there, it's extremely tough.
It's hard to log laps and get used to not only the characteristics of the track but how the car handles on it.  Especially the radio rubber compared to last year.  So trying to adapt to these tracks as quick as possible so you can get up to speed and start to compete, and then you fine tune on your car after that.  I think that is the toughest part about my jump this year.  As well as not getting caught up if you do have bad days because we've struggled.  It's very frustrating.  You get very engrossed in how you're doing and what other people are doing as well, so you have to really focus on your program.
You can't focus on what everyone else is doing or how everyone else is performing.  You just have to make sure you stick to what you guys are doing and make sure you can improve every way on your racing and not get caught up in what other people are thinking about it.
BEN KENNEDY:  To sort of follow up on that, I think the competition level is so much different once you get to the national series.  Like you said, having tough drivers that have been out there in tough cars, Nationwide cars, they've been in trucks at all these racetracks before, and they've seen it in the past years.  They've seen it resurfaced.  You're coming to a lot of these tracks that you may not have been to or never seen before.  Like he said, you've seen it on TV and everything, but I feel you can only get so much out of watching races.  Until you actually get out there and drive hard in the corner, you feel the bumps and everything.
Another thing that I've sort of been trying to focus on a little bit through my five truck races last year, I'm sure I'll focus a lot on it this year is the aero package and everything.  These guys, especially the trucks, they get so aero tight and aero loose when they get around other trucks.  You can spend all day doing single car runs at practice and everything and fine tuning your truck and getting it to the best possible driving ability, then you go out there and race with a bunch of other trucks, and it throws it completely off.
I think it's a combination of the two, having a really good set‑up, and running around the aero side as well.¬† It will really make you successful in any of these series for that matter.
DARREL WALLACE JR:  To back up what Ben said about the aero and the differences with the trucks, I've had my fair share of Nationwide races, and the trucks are so much different to me than the Nationwide cars because racing underneath somebody, you can spin out easily and really end your day.  That's what happened to me at Kentucky and Charlotte.
Going back to the quickest thing I had to learn was the new tracks that we've been to.  So prime example for me was Kansas when Kyle spun out early in the race, I was running I think 12th or something, I looked back to see where he was, and he was next to last, it looked like.  No lie, two laps later he's passing on the outside like I was sitting on jack stands.
And it was incredible to see how much experience and talent plays out once you get up to the top three series because it's a huge jump.  Racing against Kyle is probably the hardest thing.  I'm not just saying that because he's my boss or my teammate.  But he's, of course, one of the best out there, and he's a guy that will come down and run in the Truck Series and run in the Nationwide Series.  He wants to win at everything.
So trying to follow in his footsteps is probably the hardest thing to do because I know all three of us want to win any race that we get in, and learning the ropes of the new tracks and how the cars handle and different tires is tough.¬† We're all trying to do that.¬† It's not going to come overnight, but it's going to take a little bit.¬† I think it's coming fairly quick for me.¬† I'm trying to figure out everything that I can as much as the Toyota Tundra and the whole Truck Series is our main agenda because now we have a whole new body style.¬† The front ends are different.¬† And I think this is the test when we go to Kansas to see how they really plan out. ¬†Because Daytona is wide open, Martinsville is a short‑track mentality, don't really mind aero that much.¬† But when you get to Kansas, you get tucked up underneath somebody and following in their tracks, it's going to get aero tight and you have to figure out how to plan that out.
I'm excited to go to Kansas and get everything planned out so I can get a final definition of what it's going to be.

Q.  Dylan, I'm just curious, the adjustment moving up to the Nationwide Series this year from where you've been.  How big an adjustment has that been for you?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  I don't even know how to put that in words.  I was warned and I knew how much different it was going to be, how much tougher it was going to be.  I pretty much knew it was a whole different ballgame.  But when you go into it you're always going to have high expectations.  You're going to be your worst critic.  You're going to push yourself to go out and succeed even if you're doing all right.
So I expect myself to go out there and be in the Top 10 every weekend.  I want to compete for race wins.  I want to compete with the best of the best.  Obviously we've been struggling.  The biggest thing that I have to get used to, and I've talked with my team about this yesterday, is I get too focused on other people's programs.
Chase Elliott and Todd for example, they're in a different program than I am.  They've had past experience in other series, other national series, and they're more, I guess conditioned to these racetracks and into the racing that we're doing right now.  So when I see Chase Elliott go out there and get two wins in a row, that absolutely, I love that and I love seeing that, but it irks me because I want to go out there and beat these guys because I know I can compete with them.  When I do have these poor finishes at Darlington and at Texas, it just absolutely grinds my gears because I want to go out there and prove to the NASCAR world that I can race with these guys too.
So the biggest thing is I have to focus on our program at Turner Scott Motorsports.¬† I have to focus on what I need to do to improve as a driver on and off the track, and I can't get caught up on what other people think about how we're performing.¬† Because these other drivers will tell you, Bubba and Ben will tell you that Twitter is not kind sometimes.¬† When you do go look at Twitter after having these bad races and you see all these people just totally downing you, and it happens everywhere from having a bad race to me just wearing flat‑bill hats and they pick on you for it.¬† You can't get caught up in what other people are thinking about you.
So I guess the biggest thing is obviously the experience in racing with these different cars on these brand‑new tracks.¬† But really not focusing on what other people have to think about you, and just making sure you can do everything you can to improve your own program and improve yourself.

Q.  How big was it for you to start out the year the way you did at Daytona, getting the pole and finishing so well?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  Yeah, that was definitely a good note.  If you would have asked me where I thought my best finish would have been I would have not by any means thought it was going to be at Daytona of all places.  So to come off and get a strong finish there and have that pole in that first race possible, it definitely gives you a confidence booster.
Then you go to these next racetracks where you really have to get down in it and put in the effort to driving these cars, you want to do just as well.¬† So I've seen the mistakes I've made.¬† I've definitely made some rookie mistakes, that's for sure.¬† I think it's just because of my inexperience.¬† But talking with my team and talking with everybody is that surrounds me, I just need to start focusing on my program and do everything I can off the track to get me prepared for these tracks when I do come in and I'm brand‑new.¬† Hopefully you guys will start seeing some good finishes and great improvements from where we've been finishing so far.

Q.¬† Dylan, I was curious, your AOL series Flat Out won the Web award last week for best documentary non‑fiction.¬† How cool was that for that series to win an award so fast out of the gate, and if the series had been renewed for a second season?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  Yeah, to be honest, I didn't even know that I won the award until a little bit after, but it's great.  Just seeing that NASCAR productions and Vuguru and AOL as well has had great success with the show.  I think it's great to everybody in the sport just because it shows fans that may not necessarily be involved in NASCAR, it shows them the other side of it, you know, and hopefully try to get some new fans there and a new demographic, trying to push some new traffic into the sport of NASCAR.
To see that it did have success, to see that people did like it, and they thought it was a well‑made show, that's great.¬† I'd love to do it again.¬† We've been talking about it, so hopefully I don't know what we'll see, but right now I'm definitely focused on trying to perform in this Nationwide Series than I am having another web series.

Q.¬† Dylan, mentioned there with the Twitter folks sometimes.¬† Like everything in life, what you've got to do, it's easier to talk than it is to do.¬† What do you tell people to try to give them‑‑ to understand just how difficult what you do on a routine basis is when they really think they've been in a fast car but they really haven't.¬† They aren't doing anything close to what you guys do.
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  Right, a lot of the times you want to respond to people and you absolutely want to rip them apart.  Because some people are just completely irrational, and these guys will back me up on it.  I know Bubba sees it a lot, and we both talk about it.  You just want to respond back to every single one of these people.  But then you think about it like, Okay.  What are these people actually doing?  Then you come to the conclusion that they're sitting behind their computer waiting for an opportunity to have a driver respond to them.  That's what they go after.
I've seen a lot of times when I do respond they'll totally rip me apart.  It will be a negative.  You absolutely suck.  You shouldn't be on the racetrack.  I respond back to them saying that's your opinion, whatever.  Then they flip the script and they say, oh, appreciate it, man.  You're a good driver.  All they want to see is a response.  So it's tough to keep yourself contained sometimes just because you absolutely want to yell at these people.  But yet again, we've signed up for this.  We're race car drivers.  We'll be in the public eye, and that is something that we have to deal with.
THE MODERATOR:  Wonder if you have any advice for the NASCAR Next class that's being announced next week?
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  Yeah, I do.  It's a cool program to be a part of.  For me to be alumni, it's kind of weird to say that because I'm only 20, but it's really cool to be a part of that and see the younger generation coming up.  I know watching them is pretty cool.  You've got like a certain kind of people to watch out there.  You're kind of pulling for them.  It will be exciting to see who is in the new class now and see what they can do out there on the racetrack.
They're trying to make their way up through.  I'm kind of retired and an old veteran, but I'm really not.  But those are the ones that you've got to watch out for when they come through the series with you.  There is a lot in the class now, like Ben Rhodes and Greg (Indiscernible) that are trying to come up through there.  Once they get to the Truck Series, you never know what can happen, so it will be fun to watch for sure.  Just got to stick with it.
BEN KENNEDY:  Yeah, definitely.  As far as any advice, I would say just getting involved as much as possible and doing as much as possible with all of your fellow drivers and everything.  I thought the NASCAR Next program was a blast more than anything doing all these different cool activities with everyone else.  I think this NASCAR Next class currently I think it has a lot of potential.  I'm sure when they come out in a couple of weeks with a new lineup, I'm sure that class will have a ton of potential.
Seeing everyone in the K&N series, we have an All‑American series and everything, there is so much talent out there.¬† I think with a little more experience and everything, and seeing them jump up in the trucks a little bit and delve into the Nationwide Series, I think you'll see some Cup drivers come out of this program for sure.¬† So excited to see what comes out of it.
DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI:  I agree with both of these guys.  I think NASCAR does a great job of realizing who the next talent is going to be.  Hopefully, all of us talking here can make it up to the Sprint Cup Series one day and be racing against each other.  But they do a great job, like I said.  They see who is going to perform.  They really put a lot of backing behind their drivers.  They really do a good job of putting us into the spotlight before we even get up to the higher point of NASCAR.
So I think it's going to be exciting.  I think whoever NASCAR picks, it will definitely be somebody that is going to be watching.  We're going to have to watch these guys and watch them come up, because they're going to be trying to take away our spots and trying to compete against us to do it.  So it will be fun to watch them, and hopefully we can all be in the Sprint Cup Series one day.

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