NASCAR Transcript: Nick Sanchez – Press Conference – 02.16.24

THE MODERATOR: We’re going to get rolling with our post-race press conference for the Fresh from Florida 250 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

We’re joined by Nick Sanchez, driver of the No. 2 Gainbridge Chevrolet for Rev Racing on the 20th anniversary of the Drive 4 Diversity Driver Development Program, alumni of that program wins tonight’s race; also collects the 100th win for Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway.

Nick, historic night for you, your first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win. Walk us through those final laps from your perspective.

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, it was definitely a pretty wild race, obviously, what happened to us earlier kind of set the tone for us. But right there was just classical Daytona, overtime, restarts, the odds of us finishing under green weren’t really well, so I knew I was pretty much going to have to take the lead on the white flag and hope they wrecked.

That happened, and it was kind of odd because our restart played out the same in consecutive restarts with the 7 and 71 getting connected and kind of getting too big of a lead, and literally the same thing happened, me and the 17 passed them.

It was kind of odd. I wasn’t really expecting that to happen. Honestly, I kind of thought I lost the race during that last restart, but it worked out.

Q. 20th anniversary of the Drive 4 Diversity program first kicking off, and for Rev Racing pretty historic night. For you to be an alumni of the program and to be the one that’s gone up to trucks and taken this leap with Max, what does this win mean for the organization as a whole?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, I definitely think it’s big, and obviously Max, I’ve been with Max since 2017 in Legends cars, so we’ve come up through the ranks together from grass-roots all the way to here.

This is his first win in the Truck Series. It’s pretty cool because I know it’s just going to put more eyes on Rev Racing, more eyes on the program, and showing that it works and it’s proven, and now our goal is to do it on Sundays.

Q. Maybe something that even you don’t necessarily talk a whole lot about but is important to you is your family heritage. You become the second driver of Cuban descent to win a national series race. You join Aric Almirola in that category. What’s it mean to you to carry that on and let this be your mark a little bit?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, it’s definitely cool to be a little different in that sense. Sanchez, when a lot of fans see me, they definitely notice that. I might not look it, but I’m very much Cuban-American.

Yeah, to do it in Daytona, I wouldn’t call it a home-home race like a Homestead, but we’re pretty — I would say we’re pretty close right now. There’s a lot of Latin fan base here, so it’s pretty cool to get it here of all places, and yeah, awesome.

Q. Last year you guys were so close on many occasions. I think back to that Texas race and that final restart. You won five poles, led a ton of laps. Did all the heartbreaks you guys had last year, did that make this one even sweeter to finish it off?

NICK SANCHEZ: A hundred percent it did. You look at my stats from last year and every box is checked I guess but a championship and a win, right? Stage wins, laps led sweeping, everything. We did everything. We were up front every week, and it never panned out.

I take the blame for a lot of it, small mistakes. And I knew this year I didn’t have the rookie excuse. You can’t make the same mistake twice. I felt like I definitely lost Atlanta last year on my end, and hopefully I redeem myself tonight on that. I definitely rank this one up there with Atlanta as races that probably should have won that we won, so a little redemption from there, and I’m just happy to get the first one.

The first one in my opinion is the hardest, and it’s even harder when you’re so close and you lead laps and you do everything but win. It really sucks to get poles and all that stuff and not come back with trophies.

Q. At the end of last year I know there was a lot of pressure for you guys to point your way into the playoffs. You ended up going pretty far. How much of a relief is it also to have that locked in right now?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, I mean, it’s huge. We don’t have to worry about it. I was points racing all of last year. When I made the playoffs and it just reset and started over again, you can’t really take risks in a series like this with a point situation like this.

I think I finished 26th or worse the first two races last year, and pretty sure I was like 30th in points going into Atlanta. So not a good position.

Today, I didn’t really start off much better with our stage points scenario, but I think that’s just a part of maturing as a race car driver and realizing you give up some stage points to just go for the win at the end, and when it’s time to execute, execute.

Q. What was this off-season like from your perspective? What did you feel like you needed to work on to be able to get to this point and close the deal?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, for me, honestly, I’ve been working on my stage 3s. Speed, Stage 1, Stage 2, all of that for me is fine. I feel like I was green in a lot of sense last year, and I wouldn’t let the race come to me. I’d try to be on top of it, but in that process I’d kind of lose the race in a way.

Just a lot of studying, a lot of looking at debriefs and just honestly approaching this year with a mentality of driving.

Honestly I really didn’t look at a lot of film for this race. I kind of wanted to drive intuitive, not really by a book, and just wanted to merely drive and have fun, and I feel like that’s when I’m at my best.

Q. Talk about the intuition that you mentioned, not really watching a lot of film in preparation for tonight’s race at Daytona. How much did you dig in terms of the experience on that intuition from the poles that you accrued here at Daytona, the race that you had last year that ultimately didn’t go your way at the end. How did that experience help you in that final restart to give you the sense of okay, I’ve got this, going to the checkered flag?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, I think it’s just you go off of feel. There’s a lot of things that pointed for me to pick the top or to do this or do that, and me and my spotter Derek Kneeland, we just felt like what we did was the right thing.

Even I questioned it at the last minute, and he reaffirmed it. That’s just us living in the moment and just kind of taking it step by step, not getting ahead of ourselves.

I think that’s the best way to race, and the best plan here is to have really no plan.

Last year I had a plan. I rode around and it rained. There’s no good way. Didn’t start off too hot in the race with pretty much getting collected in the wreck, but I guess that’s Daytona, right? You’re spinning one time, winning the other.

Q. Speaking of Daytona, I remember the conversation, late last season at Homestead winning your home race, as a native of Miami, coming to Homestead-Miami Speedway. While you weren’t able to get the win there last season, talk about the specialty of still winning at a track at prestigious as Daytona in a state that you were born in, that you grew up and were raised in, as well?

NICK SANCHEZ: It’s definitely cool. Even though it’s not in my hometown, it definitely hits home. I’ve come to Daytona many times. It’s in Florida. The scenery, everything about it is Florida, and it’s kind of like home for me.

Yeah, honestly, really if you would have asked me yesterday what winning at Daytona would have meant I probably wouldn’t have said a whole lot. I am pretty sure i said that in an interview.

And honestly, after winning it’s pretty surreal. You don’t realize how important it is until you win here, and yeah, now the goal is to do this on Sundays.

Q. You touched a little bit in the beginning that you were wanting to make sure you got out front on the final lap because you didn’t feel really all that confident that it was going to end under green. You wanted to be in that position. I saw at the time of the wreck part of the reason why it seemed your truck was clear of the wreck was because you had a couple truck lengths on the field when it started to occur. But we’ve also seen at Daytona where being out front a couple car or truck lengths on the last lap on the backstretch has led to getting overtaken on the last lap. When you saw that distance were you worried if it did stay green a run might come or do you feel pretty good about that felt?

NICK SANCHEZ: I felt pretty good, and most of the restarts prior I had honestly kind of lifted off of 2 to kind of get back to his bumper. You’re pretty vulnerable when you do that. My truck had a lot of speed, so I knew if they got to me, it was probably going to be off of 4.

I’d much rather take my chances on losing it at the start-finish line than losing it on the backstretch under caution.

I’ve seen it replay in my head a million times, and I just try to drive.

Q. I know your family has gone through a lot to get to this point. What was the emotions that went through you when you saw your mom in Victory Lane?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, no, they were definitely excited. Obviously been so close so many times that they probably didn’t want to get their hopes up. I’m going to be honest, I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to win it at the end because in my head I wasn’t, and it worked.

I think they’re definitely going to enjoy it. It’s kind of like — kind of feels like home for them, and my parents and grandparents are here. I think they’re going to enjoy it a good bit.

Q. You’re also in the playoffs now.


Q. How much of a weight lifted is that for you?

NICK SANCHEZ: That’s amazing. I’m tired of points racing. Obviously you have to do it, but luckily I don’t have to points race until September or whenever the hell that starts.

Q. One big-picture Truck Series question for you. The drivers’ meeting heading into this season and this weekend, I understand it was kind of a stern talking-to. What was your impression of that?

NICK SANCHEZ: Yeah, I think it was valid after Phoenix. That was a pretty wild race, and obviously none of us are innocent. I think it was good, and I think this was a good place to have that.

I know we had our wrecks, but there wasn’t any silly things happening.

The Truck Series could put on really good races when we’re clean, but sometimes it gets out of hand, and obviously that’s when NASCAR steps in. I think it was definitely valid.

It wasn’t an ass chewing. I hate to use that word. But it definitely wasn’t an ass chewing. It was more like a warning. I was a part of the race; I don’t think it was really bad. I know there were some wrecks, but I thought the racing was pretty good. Hopefully we made them proud.

Q. Obviously with the new Spire relationship, did it seem like this was a new team? Did it seem like an old team? Did it seem like a mix? If it is kind of a new team to win, what is that like?

NICK SANCHEZ: It was definitely a mix because there were so many constants that stayed the same. I have four great guys that go to the track with me every week that they were the same ones that raced with me last year. This is the same truck I ran at Talladega and Daytona, so I’ve been in it before. I’ve driven it.

At the end of the day, it is a new organization in a way, going from KBM to Spire. We had three trucks in the shop, and now we have four trucks and three Cup cars. There’s always going to be questions raised, are you neglecting the Truck program, are you focusing on Cup, do you have your hands in too many places. Hopefully we answered that today.

I think it’s definitely as big for Rev Racing and myself as it is for Spire because obviously they’re building the trucks now, and we obviously share a mutual sponsor in Gainbridge, so I think it’s big for all parties, and I think it’ll translate to good things on Sundays.