Despite starting his racing career in college and not even turning a lap in a race car until after that, Matt Kobyluck managed to leave quite the mark in short track racing both in the Northeast and beyond. After learning the ropes on Saturday nights at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, the Uncasville, Connecticut native hit the road finding his place in the racing world along the way.
Sporting many memorable liveries on his No. 40 Chevrolets with Mohegan Sun front and center, Kobyluck competed full-time for 12 years in what was originally the NASCAR Busch North Series, with the tour soon morphing into the predecessor of today’s ARCA Menards Series East. Kobyluck collected 16 points race victories, two wins in the former NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown race, and a title in the 2008 NASCAR Camping World East Series.
Nowadays, it’s a more standard life for Kobyluck after hanging up the helmet following the 2010 racing season at the age of 40. Running his successful construction business in Southeast Connecticut and watching his kids go off to high school and college, all is well.
“Good, just family, work, a little golf, that’s pretty much it. Our business is staying the course and keeping busy in the construction and ready-mix concrete area, so that’s always kept me busy. Family life with the kids moving into college, high school sports, AAU sports, all sorts of good stuff,” Kobyluck told Speed51.
Not surprisingly, it was the desire to enjoy the good times with his family which led to Kobyluck putting a period on his racing career. But, there was some thought into maybe trying out the next level of Stock Car racing before calling it quits.
“That was probably the biggest reason was the family, I got two daughters and a son, they all played sport with a lot of activities on the weekends, and I was missing all of it while we were traveling racing," Kobyluck stated. "It got to the point after 2010 where I was ready to either move on to run like the NASCAR Truck Series or something like that, or stop racing. It was going to be a career changing event with my business and everything to go racing fulltime, and make that my full-time gig, or stay working, spend more time with the family and forget about racing if we didn’t move up to the next levels.”
The thought of Kobyluck going for that next level is not so farfetched, considering how he was able to build a career in racing at an age where nowadays most people would say, ‘Forget about it!’
“I got into racing from one of my friends, Kevin Debiss, as I was going through college, he was racing. I was helping him when I was home on the weekends at Waterford. When I got out of college, I wanted to try it out for myself, and that’s how it all started. I bought a car and an engine from him and my racing career was born.”
Entering the fray of Busch North fulltime in 1999, Kobyluck did it the hard way, building his own team up to take on the challenge. He also sported some of the most eye-catching paint schemes over his career, bringing both him and sponsor Mohegan Sun Casino plenty of attention with those sharp looking race cars eventually appearing in victory lane beginning in 2001. With his personal connection to the Mohegan Tribe, the racing partnership they had is one he will always be proud of.
“That was great to be able to represent the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Sun Casino, being a Mohegan Tribe member while we were out representing them in the regional market that we were racing in. To have them as a primary sponsor and a great partner was one of the biggest reasons why we were able to accomplish the things we were able to. We had good funding, good support, and in return we set out to give good results.”
Even with the rigors of the racing schedule over his time in racing, there were still plenty of great family moments that came with his time in the race car. The one that sticks out the most was the day he claimed that long awaited title in what had become the NASCAR East Series.
“Traveling with my wife Lori and my kids in the motorhome was always a great time. When we clinched the championship at Dover in 2008 with all of them there, and being to celebrate with them, the team, my parents, and all the guys. We worked so hard that year, so that was probably the most memorable moment.”
That’s not to say that the race wins from the final glory years of Busch North to the first years of NASCAR East have diminished in greatness. Kobyluck managed wins on a variety of tracks, bullrings, mile-speedways, even road courses.
“We had many memorable moments along the way, especially with every win, that’s a new event of something to be proud of. There were a lot of wins along the way, the first ever win we had was at Nazareth Speedway which is closed now, so it’s cool to have on in the books there. The road course wins at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock, winning at home at Waterford, just so many great memories.”
Kobyluck even made the national spotlight on more than one occasion, competing in the former NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown event at Irwindale Speedway from its beginning in 2003 to the his final outing in January 2011. Kobyluck tasted California glory in October 2006, and then did it again in January 2009 following the 2008 championship season.
But, that second victory had a bit of twist to it. Running third on the white flag behind Peyton Sellers and Joey Logano, Logano put an aggressive move going into turn three the last time, diving inside of Sellers and sliding up into Sellers and putting him in the wall hard. Logano crossed the line first, with Kobyluck unable to catch him in second. But, a rough driving penalty against Logano meant Kobyluck was in the right place at the right time.
It is one of the great memories that Kobyluck made in his trips out West, and one that Logano still brings up from time to time.
“Those were some great times, a couple of times we went out there my son came with me when he was just a little guy at the time. Going out there to compete against the talent that always showed up there, and winning twice made it ultra-special. Some funny conversations that I have with some guys, like Joey Logano, he’ll text me once a year and say, ‘Hey, how’s my trophy doing?’ Then I’ll just say, ‘It never was yours, but it’s doing great.”
While not as visible anymore at the racetrack, Kobyluck still keeps any eye on the sport to this day, still cherishing many friendships that he built from those days.
“I still pay attention, I’m good friends with Martin Truex, we stay in contact all the time. We actually went down to Homestead last year and hung out with them. I’d say I’m not in tune with the local racing as much as I was when I was racing. But, I do my best to keep when I can. You just don’t pay as close as attention when you’re actually competing at the track.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen