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The JR Motorsports Short Track Pipeline

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Over the last decade, no one has done more for the health of grassroots sports than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

From the revival of North Wilkesboro Speedway to his involvement with the CARS Tour. He uses his own racing teams to shine a spotlight on short track aces. Earnhardt played an important role in the discipline's revival.

This Saturday (April 6), two of our own amateur athletes will take their place on the stage with the help of Earnhardt and JR Motorsports.

While Carson Kvapil made his NASCAR debut at Martinsville Speedway

For Kvapil, many saw this long before it was announced. The son of 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil took over JR Motorsports' Late Model Stock program after Josh Berry moved into the Xfinity Series in 2021.

Since taking over the No. 8 spot on the CARS Tour full-time in 2022, Kvapil has been a two-time defending champion. He has earned ten wins, seven pole positions and 27 top-five finishes in 31 starts.

Kvapil picked up a win in the series' biggest event, the Old North State Nationals, in 2022. He is just one win behind Deac McCaskill and Bobby McCarty and sits second on the Tour's all-time wins list.

Kvapil made his ARCA Menards Series and Truck Series debuts in the fall of 2023, finishing second in the ARCA at Kansas Speedway and finishing 12th in the Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Just a week after Super Late Model star Bubba Pollard made his Xfinity Series debut in the No. 88 JR Motorsports at Richmond, Kvapil gets his chance to shine in NASCAR's second series Saturday night at Martinsville.

Kvapil is no stranger to Martinsville, finishing second and third in the track's legendary Late Model Stock event, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

With experience on the track, familiarity with the organization and a track record of success, Kvapil could be in the mix on Saturday night. He just needs to maintain all four corners of the race car for 300 laps to have a chance.

About two hours later in North Carolina, Diaz will make his first appearance in a JR Motorsports Late Model, at the site of his first CARS Tour victory of 2023.

Despite being just 23 years old, Diaz is a CARS Tour veteran, having made at least one start in the series every year since 2016. Last year was a breakthrough year for the Virginian, doubling his career top-five and top-10 overall finishes and further progress came with a victory in the summer throwback race at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Still, Diaz had no permanent plans for the 2024 season. The young star made the season opener, driving the No. 14 for Jimmy Mooring. But he left the weekend with one DNF and a final 30th place finish.

Diaz has been on Earnhardt's radar since the CARS Tour visited North Wilkesboro in 2022. That night he finished second to Kvapil, sharing driver and team owner, while Earnhardt finished third.

At Florence Motor Speedway in February, Earnhardt and Diaz rolled side by side off pit road for the track's annual Icebreaker event. That's when Earnhardt made the decision to put Diaz in the car for Hickory.

Diaz is one of the hardest working people in the entire short track scene. When he's not behind the wheel, he's looking for sponsors or helping run Southern National Motorsports Park, the track his father owns.

He doesn't have to worry about finding sponsors or planning his future Saturday. Diaz just needs to focus on trophy hunting in a top car.

Both Kvapil and Diaz have the opportunity this weekend to take their careers to new levels and make starts that could change their racing careers forever.

Ultimately, the results on the track will show the end of this story. However, one thing is certain: what Earnhardt has done and will continue to do in the grassroots sport and in his short track development pipeline is something special. Both short track enthusiasts and NASCAR fans should appreciate it while it lasts.


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