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Bob Steele Racing
Kittleson ready for best-ever ride.


BY MARK DeCOTIS
FLORIDA TODAY

Travis Kittleson's ride in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevy in Saturday night's Busch Series race at Gateway international Raceway (8 p.m., ESPN 2) is a dichotomy.

It's the best ride the Merritt Island High graduate has ever had in his fledgling NASCAR career. Yet it is most likely the only ride he will have with one of the sport's top teams. Even if he wins -- and that's not far fetched given the strength of the car and the team -- Gibbs' people haven't promised Kittleson anything. But, at the same time, a victory would certainly put the 27-year-old on the radar of every car owner looking to fill a seat.

The race will be the third for Kittleson in NASCAR's second-tier series -- he raced at Memphis in 2004 and 2005 with a best finish of 25th -- and his third overall this season following two appearances in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports.

But nothing in his career dating back to his first race at rough and tumble Orlando SpeedWorld in 1999 or through Super Late Models across the Southeast and in the ASA will compare to Saturday night.

After years in the equivalents of hand-me-down and do-the-best-we-can-with-what-we've-got rides, Kittleson will be behind the wheel of a thoroughbred.

"It's a hot rod," he said of the normally distinctive red and white Rockwell Automation car that Saturday night will carry sponsorship of Bob Steele Chevrolet of Cocoa, continuing a partnership dating back to Kittleson's early days.

And it will be his best chance to convince the NASCAR world as a whole that he is worthy. He already has convinced Steve deSouza, the man who runs Gibbs' Busch operation.

"I think GM really thinks highly of him, we thought highly of him when we saw him at the (development) combine," deSouza said.

"Since then, every time he goes somewhere he seems to do pretty well. It kind of goes back to the description that in this sport the guys that are good seem to surface to the top no matter what they're in and he seems to have that. We'll see where his talent level takes him and mentally how tough he's going to end up being. We'll see how quickly he can acclimate. He's done all the things I think you can do to prepare himself. We'll just have to see how it pans out."

Several factors are playing in Kittleson's favor. Because the car is third in owner points, it is guaranteed a starting spot so the crew can concentrate on race setup and giving Kittleson what he needs. Also, the team as a whole is a proven performer.

And while it would be unfair to compare Kittleson to the drivers who have wheeled the car -- two time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart, 2006 Cup rookie-of-the-year Denny Hamlin and up-and-comer Aric Almirola -- the machine has been to their liking and the organization knows the way to Victory Lane.

"The pressure is really on him because the 20 car week in and week out has been running well," deSouza said. "We know that. We hope he's not putting too much pressure on himself to perform at the level those guys are doing. Our expectations for him are first, if he can finish every lap and truly, I think if he gets top 10, a top 15, I would chalk it up for a win just because he's not there week in and week out.

"I told him even if he were to win the race I don't see that we have an opening for you here but I said what we would love to do is help you in your career if we can open some eyes and get you going in the right direction. If there is anybody you are talking to that you want me to call or you want them to call me, I'll be happy to give you a reference. I said the rest is up to you.

"You'll get this opportunity for one race with us. If it opens up some doors, great. I think everybody kind of realizes, Travis included, that this is probably one of the real shots he's going to get."

Kittleson doesn't need to be reminded.

"I peak and I fall, I peak and I fall," he said of his state of mind.

"I think about every race . . . whether it be Aric Almirola or Denny Hamlin in the car. I don't think I've ever seen it any further back at the end of the day than 10th in practice or in the top 10 in qualifying and in the races they're always going to the front. They've been so dominant.

"Those are some pretty big shoes to fill . . . I know I got what it takes. There's no reason for that car not to be in the top 10 or top 5 or even contending for a win. There's only going to be one thing that's different, me."




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Travis Kittleson Sets Sights on New Frontier
From www.traviskittleson.com
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
MADISON, Ill. (July 17, 2007) -- It's only fitting that a defining moment in Travis Kittleson's professional racing career comes in the shadows of the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River. Just as the monument that symbolizes the gateway to the new frontier dating back to the days of the early American pioneers, the 27-year-old short-track and American Speed Association (ASA) stock car racing veteran from Florida hopes someday to be looking back at Saturday night's NASCAR Busch Series Gateway 250 as the night he successfully ventured into previously uncharted territory. MADISON, Ill. (July 17, 2007) -- It's only fitting that a defining moment in Travis Kittleson's professional racing career comes in the shadows of the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River. Just as the monument that symbolizes the gateway to the new frontier dating back to the days of the early American pioneers, the 27-year-old short-track and American Speed Association (ASA) stock car racing veteran from Florida hopes someday to be looking back at Saturday night's NASCAR Busch Series Gateway 250 as the night he successfully ventured into previously uncharted territory. In the opportunity of his racing lifetime, Kittleson will be behind the wheel of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Chevrolet that, through the first 20 Busch Series events this season, already has a pair of victories, seven top-fives, 13 top-10s and five poles at the hands of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series veterans Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart, and JGR development driver Aric Almirola. With the help of his longtime ASA and Super Late Model sponsor Bob Steele Chevrolet of Cocoa, Fla., Kittleson comes to the 1.25-mile, egg-shaped Gateway oval hoping he can help the No. 20 team continue its strong 2007 Busch Series campaign and, at the same time, turn some heads in the Busch Series garage and earn the opportunity to become a NASCAR regular with a top-rate team. It will be only the third Busch Series start for Kittleson -- both previous starts coming about 280 miles downstream at Memphis, another track located on the banks of the Mississippi -- and the first with a team other than his own. He sold most of the assets in RT Racing in order to fund his efforts to secure a NASCAR ride alongside many young drivers he banged fenders with in ASA and Super Late Model competition since 1999, including Reed Sorensen, David Ragan, Erik Darnell and Danny O'Quinn. It's a risky proposition, to say the least, but Kittleson is banking on a solid racing resume that chronicles his dozens of short-track victories in marquee late model events throughout the Southeast since he embarked on a full-time racing career as a 19-year-old. He's certainly earned a vote of confidence from the Joe Gibbs Racing camp, which led by crew chief Dave Rogers has worked to prepare Kittleson to more than just survive Saturday night's 250-mile trek around the quirky Gateway layout. Kittleson and crew look to mount a bonafide assault on victory lane, knowing that the equipment is proven, and there's little doubt the driver is up to the task. The Gateway 250 weekend begins with practice at 7 p.m. EDT Friday. Qualifying is set for 4:30 p.m., Saturday with live coverage on SPEED-TV. Race time is 7:30 p.m., with ESPN2's live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Travis Kittleson -- driver of the No. 20 Bob Steele Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series race at Gateway: You've worked long and hard for this opportunity, and you've given up a lot to get here. Now that it's about to become a reality, how do you feel about heading to Gateway for your first opportunity to drive for a team like Joe Gibbs Racing? “I'm pumped up. I'm hoping for the Cinderella story. It's the opportunity of a lifetime to get in a Joe Gibbs car. The way the team's been working this year and how the car's been running, regardless of what driver's been in it, it just makes me really excited. I've been hanging out with them and listening on the radio, and (crew chief) Dave Rogers is, by far, probably one of the best leaders I've ever had the opportunity to be around. I've learned from them the last couple of months. I can't tell you how great I feel about knowing that everything I need to perform is going to be there.” With only a couple of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races under your belt this season, are you ready to be competitive? “I feel pretty confident, but at the same time, I've only run two races. The first part of practice, I'm going to be getting some dust off. I'm going to have to learn quickly and get up on the wheel. I'm going to have to get to the point where, like when you're racing often, you do things without thinking. I've got to get to that point again really, really quickly. If I can get to that point, it'll be a perfect scenario. If we unload like they've been unloading all year, and like every time they've been to Gateway, I think there is a good chance that we could win. The odds are against me, but it's there. It's a possibility.” Do you feel like you're expected to just bring the car home, or are you going to be able to actually get out there and race? “They want me to get the best result. They've got my best result in mind. I've raced for a couple of other teams in the past where that hasn't been the case. I honestly feel we've got a great game plan. First, you focus on a top-10. Then you're not going to try to drive over your head. You're not going to try to prove too much. If we get to the end of the race and we're in the top-10, they said they'll get up there. My first goal is to finish the race. But in their minds, they're going to that race to bring home the hardware. They're going to the track to win. They don't ever go there any other way. That kind of confidence makes me feel comfortable.” -more- Travis Kittleson -- Gateway Advance Page Two Have you discussed strategy with (crew chief) Dave Rogers and the rest of the team, and what might that be? “We've spent a considerable amount of time talking about what we expect from each other. I've explained my traits, my habits. Dave tried to paint a picture of what I should be expecting in the car, what Denny (Hamlin) wants and what Aric (Almirola) wants, and how we can find the in-between for me. I might automatically just like what Denny likes. I might just automatically like what Aric likes. Or I might not like either of them. Dave's just a super leader. He's got an aura of confidence. He makes you feel very comfortable. He told me he wants me to go there and focus on a top-10, and once we get into the top-10, we'll focus on winning the race. The fact that he can say he can get me in the winner's circle makes me feel good that he believes in me and he's that confident in what he does.” Meet the No. 20 Bob Steele Chevrolet / Joe Gibbs Racing Team at Gateway: Primary Team Members: Driver: Travis Kittleson Crew Chief: Dave Rogers
Car Chief: Rick Bray Engine Builder: Mark Cronquist
Engine Specialist: Dan Bajek Spotter: Danny Culler
Over-The-Wall Crew Members: Gas Man: Dennis Falls Front Tire Changer: Jay Barry
Catch Can Man: Andrew Bruckler Front Tire Carrier: Mikey Drake
Windshield: Rick Bray Rear Tire Changer: Jonathan Sherman
Jack Man: Ben Chase Rear Tire Carrier: Gus Hinton
Other Crew Members: Truck Driver: Mike “Sweats” Lance Tire Specialist: Jamie Turski
Engineer: Mike Lorusso Scorer: Dana Moore
The Car: Chassis No. 2043: Chassis No. 2043 has always been extremely competitive on the race track. Denny Hamlin has been behind the wheel for all five of Chassis No. 2043's starts and put it on the pole four of the five times he competed with it. In 2006, this chassis raced at The Milwaukee Mile in June where it finished second, Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., in July where it finished third and at the O'Reilly Raceway Park in Clermont, Ind., in August where it finished eighth. Earlier this year, Chassis No. 2043 was an early contender at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, but an on-track incident with the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth resulted in an uncharacteristic 41st-place finish. The only time Chassis No. 2043 started outside the front row was at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon in June of this year, where it started fifth and finished in the same position. Travis Kittleson's Career Profile: Travis Kittleson will make the third NASCAR Busch Series start of his career and his first with Joe Gibbs Racing when he drives the No. 20 Bob Steele Chevrolet during Saturday night's Gateway 250 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. Both of Kittleson's previous Busch Series starts came at Memphis Motorsports Park in 2004 and 2005, respectively, in the No. 68 RT Racing Chevrolet. He started 31st and finished 25th in his Busch Series debut at Memphis in 2004. He started 23rd and finished 26th in 2005. Other career highlights: Ø Made it to the final 12 in the 2005 Roush Gong Show against the likes of David Ragan, Danny O'Quinn and Erik Darnell in a competition that began with 1,700 applicants. Ø After limited schedule in 2001 and 2002, raced full-time ASA National Touring Series schedule in 2003, finishing ninth in the championship.Ø Following 2003 ASA season, got back in his No. 88 Super Late Model to run several major race events, including the 2003 Fall Festival and the 2003 Asphalt World Championships. Won the 2003 Fall Festival Championship in Ocala, Fla., and set a track record. Set fast pace at Concord, N.C., for the 2003 Asphalt World Championships with a track record and finished fourth. Ø Opened 2002 short track season with a win at the Orange Blossom 100 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, then beat a field that included short track veterans from around the country in the main event at USA International Speedway's Speedfest 2002 in Lakeland, Fla. Finished second in the points after seven top-five finishes in eight events -- including one win -- at Speedweeks in New Smyrna against another field of competitors from throughout North America. Ø In 2000, his first full season of racing, won the Orlando (Fla.) Speedworld track championship and was FASCAR combined points champion at Orlando Speedworld and New Smyrna. Also was the Rookie of the Year in the Florida Sunbelt Super Series, finishing fourth in overall points. Ø At age 19, won the 1999 Winter World Series championship at New Smyrna, driving Super Late Models, the first rookie winner ever. Also was the 1999 Orlando Speedworld Rookie of the Year. Won 14 races in all during the year. Travis Kittleson's Personal Information: Born: Dec. 21, 1979Birthplace: Madison, Wis.Hometown: Merritt Island, Fla.Status: Single

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KITTLESON TAKES EMOTIONAL WIN USING ADVICE FROM HIS MENTOR by Matt Kentfield

Pete Orr’s Memory Drives Travis to Dominating Victory

Just like he did for several seasons in ASA, Pete Orr helped Travis Kittleson succeed on Saturday night. The only difference is that Orr did it from above this time. When the smoke cleared, it was all Travis Kittleson on Saturday night.

Since coming up two laps short on winning the Pete Orr Memorial 100 last year, Kittleson has been focused on winning the race named for his former crew chief and mentor. When his car began vibrating late in the race, Kittleson was worried that he was not going to be able to make satisfy his dream of winning the Orr Memorial once again. With a little help from Orr, Kittleson was finally able to seal the deal Saturday night as he dominated the final 70 laps en route to the race win and the 2006 Speedweeks Super Late Model Championship.

“I can’t put into words what it means to win this race,” said Kittleson. “I don’t mean to sound cliché or anything but he was a neat guy. He was sometimes grumpy but he was really straightforward. He just knew what he was talking about when it came to racing. He had been there, done that, and seen it and he was able to relay that to everyone else.”

When Kittleson and Orr worked together, they built a relationship that Kittleson still looks back on as one of the most influential in his racing career. The bond that the two shared was echoed by Orr’s wife Terry, who was one of the first people in victory lane to congratulate Kittleson on winning Pete’s race.

“It’s nice to have someone win it that it really means a lot to,” said Orr. They worked closely together with a lot of long hours at the shop. Travis
credits a lot of the things he’s done in racing to what Pete taught him. That really means a lot. It makes it special for us because we know that those two had a special bond.”

Kittleson’s white, black, and red car is a tribute to Orr. Orr made the #30 famous in Florida Late Model circles, and that’s why when Kittleson carried the #30 in last year’s Pete Orr Memorial 100 and came up just short on the victory, he regrouped for this year’s race and wanted to get the job done. That’s why he wasn’t going to beat himself this year. Kittleson was going to race hard but smart, a philosophy that Orr instilled in him years ago.

“He told me all the time that if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough,” said Kittleson. “I remember one time in the shop and I was drilling
something and I drilled into my finger and he told me that and that saying has kind of stuck in my head ever since. He always had cool things like that to say at the right time.

“He was really family oriented. If you could see him and his wife talking it was like school age kids in love. It’s like he had the perfect life except that he never had the shot he deserved in racing. I had the opportunity to race with him and work with him. We worked together for a few seasons and I learned so much from him.”Kittleson (#88) passes Landon Cassill (#7) for the race lead and the points
title.

If Orr ever told Kittleson how to drive with a car that was about ready to break, Kittleson certainly paid attention. Late in the race Saturday night the car was vibrating heavily in the rear end, leaving the driver wondering if he was once again going to have the race slip from his grasp.

“Whatever was vibrating in the drivetrain was about to break,” said Kittleson. “I wanted to win this race so bad and I just saw it going away with that vibration. I never thought in a million years that we’d be running away from those guys at the end. That’s our backup motor plus the vibration I didn’t think we could pull it off.”

Kittleson had to win the race in order to keep his championship hopes alive. He entered Saturday night’s finale second in points behind Landon Cassill. When Cassill lost several laps on pit road with a throttle problem, the door to the title was opened for Kittleson. After he was forced to miss Friday’s feature with a blown motor in qualifying that could not be replaced in time for the race. He was put in a situation where he had to win the race and Cassill had to have problems. Both happened Saturday, handing the title to Kittleson.“I didn’t think about the championship until I was out there and somebody brought me both trophies.” I was like, man, we won the championship. Cool!”

Every once and a while a racer has one of those years, and maybe for me it’s just this week, that you can’t do anything wrong. It’s like you go out in practice and you’re the fastest car. Then you qualify on the pole and win the race leading every lap. That’s how we did it this year. There’s people out there looking at their stopwatches and a lot of them are out there accusing us of cheating left and right. They can tear my car down all they want and they’re not going to find a damn thing wrong with it.”No one’s going to find a damn thing wrong with having Kittleson win the Pete Orr Memorial 100, either.

 

 
     
 
   
 
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