(TOLEDO, Ohio - January 17, 2013) - Matt Kurzejewski's first and only ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards experience was about as wild as it gets.
Spin the clock back to the championship finale at Toledo Speedway in 2008 when a race broke out after the gigantic on-track fighting match.
Scott Speed was considered a shoe-in for the title in Eddie Sharp's car. All he had to do was finish 22nd or higher. Keep in mind, on that particular day, the 22nd finishing position was 15 laps down. Literally, all Speed had to do to win the title was coast around in circles for an hour and a half.
It happened early the race. Speed was running in the top-five with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in his mirror. Stenhouse, a close second in points, was getting impatient with Speed and moved him up the track in turn three where Speed made significant contact with the wall. After making repairs to the car under caution, Speed sped off pit road and rejoined the field. While the car could no longer win the race, it was arguably still good enough to win the title. However, Speed had other plans. He was waiting for him; and when Stenhouse drove by on the outside under green, Speed took matters into his own hands and wrecked Stenhouse. Both cars were now damaged beyond repair. And both drivers were removed from any title hopes. Justin Allgaier, a long shot to win the title on the front end of the show, came out the champion on the back end.
It was on that day, in that setting, that Kurzejewski made his ARCA debut.
"It was definitely chaotic," Kurzejewski said.
"My first ARCA race was intriguing to say the least, especially compared to where I came from. It was pretty wild. There was so much hype with the points being so tight and the championship on the line. And to see all that play out the way it did was quite an experience.
"Then, things were going very well for us in the race. We were in the top-10 all day. We were running sixth near the end of the race when we got dumped under caution. I won't say who it was but I couldn't believe it. Never had an altercation of any kind with the guy. Then we got a flat tire at the end and had to pit under green. Lost a few laps, but still came back and finished 18th. The whole thing - it was an experience I'll never forget."
There was another experience that Kurzejewski will never forget. The Mansfield, Pennsylvania driver made his ARCA debut driving for Bob and Ron Keselowski. And after going off in other racing directions for four years since that crazy ARCA debut, Kurzejewski will return to ARCA competition with the Keselowski brand for the 50th running of the Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real at Daytona Int'l Speedway on February 16.
"Racing for the Keselowski's was an awesome experience. I mean, when you combine Bob, Ron and Brian, that's quite a bit of experience wrapped up in that family. It was very cool. Bob's such an awesome guy, and I'm so grateful to be back with them for Daytona."
Kurzejewski participated in the open test at Daytona for the Keselowski's with resounding success. Always near the top of the speed charts, Kurzejewski led the speed charts during one of the six on-track sessions before the Venturini powerhouse team knocked him off late in the session.
"It was a great test in the No. 54 Dodge. It won't be yellow when we come back though. It'll be painted up with Costy's Services as our sponsor. Penske motor."
There are more plans for the Kurzejewski clan past Daytona.
"Right now, I'm planning on running Talladega, both Poconos, MIS, Chicagoland, Iowa, Kentucky and Kansas. I'm thinking about running one of those road courses. Considering it anyway.
"We're actually going to go back down and test at Talladega - I think on the 25th of January. Brian (Keselowski) is taking care of all that.
"But I'm very excited for Daytona and the season ahead."
Despite Kurzejewski's brief ARCA experience, for a guy that's not yet 22, his racing resume is impressive to say the least. He has certainly come up through all the ranks.
He started in quarter midgets as a young boy and moved into a local four-cylinder division before making the move into Legends Cars racing. From there, he steered for the NASCAR open wheel modified ranks before he went NASCAR East division racing with SK Motorsports. Then he spent a year-and-a-half on the UARA late model tour before going back to modified racing. He also spent some time in the PASS late model tour. All that, before returning to ARCA for the 2013 season.