HOUSTON, Texas — Some may find it hard to believe that a division originally created to replace the old Bombers has come this far. We speak, of course, about the evolution of Factory Stock; where it started, and how far it has come. Gone are the days when an old home-built beater can be competitive.
For 27-year-old Cotton Bowl Speedway regular Kevin Nejtek, having a new top-notch chassis and engine package wasn't an option. From his rookie year of 2018 through last Fall, he piloted home-built cars with the help of his Dad, legendary setup man David Nejtek. This year, things are a little different.
“We started having bad luck last year early on,” Nejtek explained. “The second race of the season, I made contact with another guy in the B Main and went backwards into the wall. I lost the motor, as well, and then rolled my car over a couple races before the season ended.
“We fixed it, and a couple races later I scored as top five. The next race, I threw the drive shaft out of it, and the next week we lost another motor. It was a rough year, for sure. But this year, we've got a brand new Outlaw chassis with a professionally assembled engine. We're going after that victory in 2023.”
Nejtek is about to embark on his sixth year in racing, and has been soaking up knowledge since Day 1.
“Back in the day, my Uncle owned a car over at Longhorn Speedway,” he said. “It was a Street Stock, and he had a great driver in it. One year they won 18 out of 22 races together. Back then, my uncle worked at Performance Plus, so he knew a lot about engines.
“I ran in a few races in 2017 when it was still the CBS Stocks. The next year, I won the first actual Factory Stock championship. I got lucky, really. It's a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. The division has gotten much tougher now, but they can't take that first points title away from me.”
One of the reasons it's been so tough for Nejtek to notch his first win is the stiff competition he faces.
“It's tough to win at Cotton Bowl,” he said. “With guys like Tim Homeyer, Steve Sims and Adam Haugh in the field, you better be fast. A lot of them are working on getting faster for this year. We even get Dalton Faulkner up there some nights. It's fun racing against those guys; that's how I can learn.”
To hear him talk about this new car is heartwarming; Nejtek is as excited as a kid on Christmas Day.
“Having this brand new Outlaw is going to give me a much better shot,” Nejtek said. “The motor I'll run has been built to the new rules; it's got the aftermarket Rods, cylinder heads, intake, all of it. And it got sent to USA Racing Engines in Houston for assembly. They checked all the clearances. I'm happy.”
Along with his new car and driving skills, Nejtek also has some good people and sponsors on board.
“First off, I want to thank Don Henrich at Encore Drilling, LLC, for all he's done for me over the years,” he said. “My Dad worked for him, as well, and he's been a big help to my race team. I'll also thank my Dad, David Nejtek; Rusty Nejtek, Nejtek Racing, USA Racing Engines and PRC Carbs.
“I also need to thank Trey Caulfield at TLC Graphics for making my cars look good, and everyone I work with, especially Rual, who helped me a ton on the car some after work. I'll also praise MaryAnn and H.E. Naumann for all they do for racers at Cotton Bowl. It's a first class place to race every year.”
With the official Test N' Tune Day at Cotton Bowl Speedway set for March 18, Nejtek is gearing up.
“I need to be sure there are no issues with this new car before we run our first points race,” he said. “The Test N' Tune day will be perfect to shake it down and try to get used to it. I'll be there, and I'm sure all of the other guys will be ready to go, as well.”
For Nejtek, his perspective on racing and life itself has changed. Priorities can change as time goes on.
“I'm going to make a big effort this year to get that first win. This will be my last season of driving for a while; I'll be stepping away to spend more time with my family. I haven't said much about it, but the facts are there. My neice is turning 15 soon, and my nephews are very active.
“I've reached a point to where I don't want to miss out on important events in their lives. I love racing, don't get me wrong, but family can't take a back seat after this year. New season, new car, and we'll go hard after that feature win. But either way, I'll step away after OctoberFAST. It's what I need to do.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Rachel Plant/Cotton Bowl Speedway