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Las Vegan’s first Xfinity ride ‘a Rocky … second-chance’ tale

He had been chasing the dream for so long that when asked about making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut Friday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, Matt Jaskol had to choke back tears.

“I cried a few times during all of this and, man, I really wish this would have happened in my twenties,” said the 36-year-old Las Vegan who will start 40th and last after being signed to a four-race deal by car owner Carl Long and MBM Motorsports.

When he started racing 20 years ago, Jaskol’s focus was on driving in the Indianapolis 500. The former karting ace was identified as a future star by the Red Bull Driver Search and made it as far as the Indy Lights series before his career stalled. It wasn’t for lack of talent, but for lack of a sponsor, Jaskol said.

But he never gave up, jumping into anything with four wheels in an attempt to stay relevant. He worked as a spotter for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, his karting protege, and Marco Andretti. He even participated in the ABC reality series “Castaways” thinking it might help keep his name out there.

Sponsor on board

Recently, another of Jaskol’s former racing pals, Chris Davenport of Las Vegas, parlayed a successful karting accessories business into formation of an online company called Auto Parts 4 Less. Jaskol suddenly had a financial backer, and doors that had been previously closed began to open.

He said Long told him the car he will drive is a 25th-place runner at best. The car’s number is 13. But Jaskol is thrilled to be getting behind its wheel despite never having driven a single lap in an Xfinity car.

“We’re going to go out there and see what we can do and who knows what this will turn into,” said the former Las Vegas Motor Speedway driving instructor. “I literally just want to finish. I know how to stay out of trouble, but sometimes you just get bitten, right? If I get taken out on Lap 20, that’s what scares me a little bit.”

Jaskol said a good result could lead to additional races with MBM. He also said that he already has heard from two car owners that could move his Indy 500 dream back to the front burner.

“This didn’t seem realistic — I’m going to a full-blown NASCAR ride right below Cup with no practice, no qualifying. Essentially, I haven’t raced in a high level car in 10 years,” he said.

“It truly is like a Rocky, underdog, second-chance story.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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