Wednesday, September 18, 2013
NASCAR series tracks young Dylan Kwasniewski
(Eds: Edits third paragraph to show Vuguru co-produced project with NASCAR)
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Las Vegas native Dylan Kwasniewski is into action sports, music and everything else that grabs the attention of a typical high school kid.
He's also the youngest driver to win the K&N Pro Series West championship.
Seizing on an opportunity to introduce Kwasniewski to a wider audience and possibly attract a younger demographic, NASCAR and Vuguru co-produced a documentary series on his life on and off the track. The 10 unscripted episodes of "FLAT OUT" debuted Tuesday as part of the AOL ON original programming lineup.
"You know, my friends, they follow racing because I'm into it, it's the only reason they are into it," Kwasniewski said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I was living out in Vegas, separated from the racing culture, and even though I was definitely engrossed in it 100 percent, all my friends have different issues. My goal is to get them to understand what goes on outside of my personal life.
"This show does that and it introduces NASCAR to a new demographic as part of a youth initiative. I think the biggest thing is to show everybody that isn't interested in NASCAR that I have a different feel, I may dress differently, but I'm still a race car driver and I want to get people interested in the sport and help NASCAR grow as a sport."
Kwasniewski, now 18, began filming right before his prom while he juggled traveling back and forth between North Carolina and Las Vegas. He was trying to finish his senior year of high school, transition into the K&N Pro Series East and prepare for a full-time move to the Charlotte area for an eventual jump to a NASCAR national series.
"As an 18-year-old prodigy, Dylan offers a unique and remarkable perspective," said Gabriel Lewis, Head of AOL On Originals. "We're thrilled to offer fans an inside look at NASCAR through Dylan's point of view and to share his story with our viewers."
The episodes capture battles with his mother, Jennifer, as the two struggle over Kwasniewski becoming an adult. In one episode, he doesn't understand why he can't enjoy summer as a kid and put off racing two weeks to backpack in Europe with best friend Cameron Feathers, only to contradict himself in another episode by arguing with his mother that as a homesick 18-year-old, he's got the right to spend his money on a plane ticket back to Las Vegas.
Kwasniewski said the scenes accurately captured the dynamic between a son and a mother trying to make it alone since his father, former COO and President of Hard Rock Casino and Hotels Randy Kwasniewski, died three years ago.
"It got frustrating trying to balance normal life, a business role, and her being both my mom and dad," he said. "She's got to be tough cookies sometimes. We were trying to act normal on camera. And we definitely were ourselves."
The show chronicles his racing in the East Series -- he heads to New Hampshire this weekend ranked first with five wins and nine top-10s in 11 races -- and his move into his own apartment in Charlotte. His mother wonders if he can handle living alone, especially after having to cut up his credit card after Kwasniewski threw a wild party at their Las Vegas home, but eventually agrees.
"Dylan was a perfect fit for this project because, in addition to his aspirations to be a top driver in NASCAR, he has a dynamic personality and the same concerns and problems that most teenagers have, which makes him relatable," said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment, marketing and business development.
Kwasniewski, who didn't get to see the final four episodes until they launched Tuesday, is pleased with the project.
The series ends with Kwasniewski sponsor Rock Star agreeing to extend its relationship with him, but Kwasniewski said Wednesday he's not ready to announce if that will be in the Truck Series or Nationwide Series in 2014.
And for those wondering, his mom never gave him back his credit card.
"I felt like it was my get-out-of-jail-free card, my golden ticket," he said. "I was mad when she took it, but now I see it, that motherly instinct she had. I'm a lot more frugal now."