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No license, no problem for 15-year-old in NASCAR

Lower age minimum will allow teenager to race in Roseville’s Pro Series West event
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Dylan Kwasniewski isn’t old enough to have a driver’s license, but in the world of motor sports, people are more than eager to hand him the keys to their cars and let him drive as fast as he can.

Kwasniewski (pronounced kwos-NEH-ski) is 15 years old and has been driving racecars since he was 4. He’ll be in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo driving for Gene Price Motorsports of Parker, Ariz., on Saturday in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Toyota/NAPA Auto Care 150 at All American Speedway in Roseville.

NASCAR in February lowered the minimum age for its touring series from 16 to 15. Chase Elliott, son of popular NASCAR driver Bill Elliott, became the first 15-year-old to take advantage of the new rule, and he finished fourth in a Pro Series East race April 2. Elliott is signed with NASCAR giant Hendrick Motorsports.

Kwasniewski will be the first 15-year-old in Pro Series West, and team owner Gene Price said Friday the kid is ready. Kwasniewski tested with Price at the Bullring in Las Vegas, Kwasniewski’s hometown, and again Friday at All American Speedway.

“He comes with a pretty impressive résumé. He’s won just about everything he’s been in,” Price said. “Everyone was impressed, to say the least, with his ability to operate in this car – never been in it before, on a green racetrack in Las Vegas, and got right up to speed. Within 15 or 20 laps, he was doing good, fast lap times with good car control.”

NASCAR wouldn’t approve Kwasniewski to race in the Pro Series West opener Feb. 24 at Phoenix International Raceway, a one-mile tri-oval. Price said NASCAR officials wanted to see Kwasniewski on a short track first. Roseville’s oval is one-third of a mile.

“That’s what this race is all about,” Price said.

And, there will be more. Kwasniewski is signed with Price for the remainder of the season, so the kid will make a run at the rookie-of-the-year award on the circuit.

Kwasniewski, a sophomore who now is home-schooled because of his suddenly hectic racing schedule, is excited about taking this latest step up the ladder toward his ultimate goal: NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, of course.

“It’s awesome,” he said Friday at All American Speedway. “It’s definitely a big step up, because although the cars may not be much faster than the cars I’ve driven before, it’s a lot different because it’s heavier and you have to learn car control. It’s a big step because the competition is a lot better.”

Kwasniewski began racing go-karts at the age of 4. He has since driven Bandaleros, Legends, trucks, super late models, modifieds and late models. He said his mom, Jennifer, would “rather me pick up a set of golf clubs and go golfing,” but once he settles into a new series, “she’s pretty good with it.”

Since Kwasniewski has always been the youngest driver in each series he’s raced, he said he isn’t intimidated by the other drivers.

Weighing heavily on his young mind at the moment is his driver’s license. Kwasniewski turns 16 on May 31, and there is a 2008 BMW 335 at home waiting to be driven.

He said he’s asked often what it’s like to be able to race competitively but not be old enough to have a license. Price recalled when Kwasniewski obtained his learner’s permit.

“We asked him, ‘How does it feel to drive in a straight line without going around in circles?’”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com.

ALL AMERICAN SPEEDWAY SEASON-OPENING WEEKEND

When: Friday and Saturday
Where: All American Speedway, 800 All America City Blvd., Placer County Fairgrounds, in Roseville
Friday’s schedule: NASCAR Whelen All-American Series – Late Model 100-lap main event, plus SRL and Legends practice. Tickets: General admission, $10; kids 12 and under, $5. Gates open at 5 p.m. Racing at 8 p.m. Parking: $5.
Saturday’s schedule: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Toyota/NAPA Auto Care 150, SRL main event, Legends main event. Tickets: Adults, $30 in advance, $35 race day; kids 6-11, $15; kids 5 and under, free. Gates open at 3 p.m. Parking $5.
Information and tickets: www.billmcanallyracing.com, 676-0256 (Bill McAnally Racing) or 786-2025 (Placer Co. Fair office).