Kevin Swindell has accomplished nearly everything he has set out to do thus far in his racing career. He is perhaps the most-successful sprint and midget car driver of his generation. And coming off four-consecutive Chili Bowl National victories, Swindell has begun to turn his ambition towards something completely different - NASCAR.
Swindell has only a handful of starts in a stock car but really increased his workload last season, competing in eight ARCA Series events for Venturini Motorsports and made two Nationwide Series starts for Biagi-DenBeste Racing. He also tasted his first bit of success, winning the ARCA event at Chicagoland Speedway.
For Swindell, it's a matter of continually proving himself against the best drivers of every discipline and 2013 appears to be his toughest challenge yet. Swindell plans to run 15 races for Biagi-DenBeste in the Nationwide Series. With one ninth-place finish with the team last year, at Texas, Swindell is expecting positive results again this season. Should those results come, Swindell hopes to chase the Series title by 2014.
"You want to think you can jump right on into the Sprint Cup Series tomorrow and be fine," Swindell told SB Nation on Monday. "I think if we stay on top of our adjustments as a team and as a driver, I like to stay with the team for the next two years and find funding to run the full-time schedule.
"We're going to do the best we can. If we win, we win but we want to stay in the top-10 of every race we enter. I want to prove that I'm more than capable of competing against these guys on a week-to-week basis."
Swindell grew up in Germantown, Tenn. favoring a career in Formula 1 but the third-generation driver turned to NASCAR due to the lack of competitive routes to Europe in America. That's not to say NASCAR was his second choice either. Swindell grew up near the sport with his father, Sammy Swindell, making 32 career starts between the three National touring series - including two in the Sprint Cup. So the possibility of following in his father's footsteps - and then some - was always in the back of young Kevin's mind.
"NASCAR is just something you grow up watching on Sundays in a racing family," Swindell said. "It's where you want to be if you're an American driver - the upper echelon for racing and it's where I want to be."
Some of NASCAR's most-decorated champions over the past few years, including Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, honed their crafts on the high-banked clay speedway - a fact not lost on Swindell. He believes his dirt background will actually benefit in his transition to NASCAR, especially compared to the Late Models that dominate the current NASCAR ladder system.
Despite the faster overall speed of a stock car, the shorter tracks and the reaction time window of a winged sprint car gives off a bigger impression of speed, according to the 23-year-old.
"Sprints just feel faster," he said. "We've raced at Michigan and approached 200 mph but the lengths of the straightaways give me a lot more time to decide the fastest ways around the corner. On dirt, we're constantly having to search for the fastest line and looking for grip. Late Model racing is a lot more one-dimensional and there's typically just one way to get around those tracks. I think those factors carry over to speedway racing like we do in NASCAR."
Despite turning most of his attention towards NASCAR, there's at least one more dirt race that Swindell wants to conquer - the Knoxville Nationals.
"I feel like I have plenty of (dirt) races to win," Swindell said. "Knoxville immediately comes to mind. I feel like we've use all of our luck up at the Chili Bowl the past few years because we don't have any down there recently. I've given up a few wins at Eldora that I would like to get back too. To win an Outlaw race up there is a statement that you've really done something."
Expected to be one of the more sought-after dirt races on the calendar next year, NASCAR's Truck Series debut at Eldora has certainly attracted the dirt ace's attention but only if enough sponsorship can be found.
"We would love to go up to Eldora if we can work it out," Swindell said. "Like everything in the stock car world, it's going to take a good bit of money. But if someone wants to foot the bill or put their sponsor on the truck, that's something we're definitely interested in."
With Swindell's family pedigree and his elite dirt racing background, don't be surprised if Kevin becomes NASCAR's next big thing over the next few years. Swindell will drive the no. 98 Ford for Biagi-DenBeste Racing with the team set to make its 2013 debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.