WATERFORD, Conn. – Matt Kobyluck, 39, made history in September 2008 when he became the first American Indian to win a NASCAR series championship with a third place finish at Dover International Speedway.
Kobyluck, a member of the Mohegan tribe, accepted the NASCAR trophy in December for the 2008 NASCAR Camping World East Series on the strength of four wins and 12 top 10 finishes in 13 races.
He began his career in 1993 driving in the popular Late Model division at Waterford Speedbowl in his home state of Connecticut.
“It was a very rewarding season this year. We have been in this series for 10 years and racing for 15 and this was my first championship. It was a great day and a great accomplishment for the whole team. Me, personally, being a Mohegan tribal member and having the Mohegan Sun Casino as my primary sponsor was very rewarding. And then to be the first American Indian in the history of NASCAR to ever win a championship and be able to represent Indian country that way was really cool.”
As driver and owner of the No. 40 Mohegan Sun Resort Chevrolet, Kobyluck credits much of his success to his team, who were presented with the Sportsmanship Award. “Anyone who has been in racing and is successful will tell you that races are not won at the race track. They are won in the shop before you even drive onto the track. All the preparation you do leading up to the event is what will get you the desired results out on the race track. My team deserves a lot of the credit for everything that we have accomplished.”
Kobyluck is also the first driver credited with winning two NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdowns finishing his 2008 season in January 2009 by winning his second. A post-season invitational race – the showdown brings the best drivers from both series, the Camping World East and West Series, head-to-head.
Planning to defend his title in the Camping World Series East for 2009, Kobyluck is looking for an opportunity to take his team to the next level.
“NASCAR racing is all about having great partners. Getting to that next level requires a bigger financial commitment which can sometimes dictate if you are able to get there and truly realize what your capabilities are. If there is a business that is interested in partnering with me to get to that next level I would love the opportunity.”
The Camping World East Series was originally formed as the NASCAR Busch Grand National North Series and Busch Grand National East Series in 1987, racing primarily in the northeast and today is a regional stepping-stone series to NASCAR’s national divisions. It’s the only NASCAR series where a driver can win the championship without winning a single race.
The 2008 schedule had the series running races in eight states up and down the East Coast. “The series winner is determined by how many points they earn,” Kobyluck said. “You gain points for every event that you run and your finishing position. The person with the most points at the end of the season wins the championship. This year we had the most wins at four, and we had the most top five and top 10 wins. At the end of the season we had accumulated the most points which put us in line to receive the championship.
“It’s pretty intense inside the car during a race. The cockpit is hot; temperatures are usually around 130 degrees. You have to be paying attention every second every step of the way. A lot of things can either go right or wrong in a hurry, you have to be mentally prepared to go the distance. Racing is mentally and physically fatiguing so you have to stay in good physical shape to stay sharp at the end of a race when you really need it. Everything happens very quickly out there.”
He was also awarded the season-long Happy Camper Award while his crew chief, Perry Waite, picked up the Lunati Champion Crew Chief Award. As the sponsor of a champion, the Mohegan Sun Casino was honored with the 2008 Champion Sponsor Award.
A family man, Kobyluck said his kids – Vanessa, 11, Kyle, 9, and Sabrina, 7 – play a special part in his racing because they are able to come to the track and enjoy it with his wife, Lori. He also carries some special people with him on his car. “I have a special insignia for my brother Dan on the car that keeps him fresh in my mind every day.”
On top of his racing career, Kobyluck is the president of six family-owned businesses started by his father – now semi-retired – in 1970. Today, Matt and his three brothers run the day-to-day operations of their site development business, construction, concrete, quarry and trucking companies.
“It’s a nice family business. We are successful at it, but like anything else it takes hard work and dedication in order to make it succeed.”