Ruben Garcia Jr. is getting to be an old hand at NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series, but the native of Mexico City says “there is always more you can learn” when it comes to racing.
“Like with the K&N Series moving to radial tires, the exact same tires as Xfinity and the (Camping World) Truck Series, I think that helped me a lot this (past) season,” Garcia said Thursday during the unveiling of the 2019 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program driver lineup.
Garcia Jr., 23, is one of six Drive for Diversity participants who will be competing for Rev Racing next season. He’ll be joined by fellow returnees Ernie Francis Jr. of Southwest Ranches, Fla., Chase Cabre of Tampa, Fla., and Nick Sanchez of Homestead, Fla. New to the lineup this season will be Brooke Storer (Land O’Lakes, Fla.) and Gracie Trotter (Denver, N.C.).
“I am always open to learning new things,” Garcia said. “Even running the Mexico Series, I already won (the title) twice but I still learn stuff every year.”
A three-year veteran with the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, Garcia finished 10th in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points standings in 2016 and fifth in ’17.
This past season, he finished third in points and scored his first and second victories in the series, winning at Memphis (Tenn.) and Dover (Del.).
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I feel like these three years have gotten me ready to move up,” Garcia said. “... I think that everybody in the program helped me to grow as a driver inside the car and outside the track. The progress I’ve done in the K&N Series has been pretty important for me.
“The only thing next is to go race for the championship. I think that’s the least I could do for the team this coming season. It has to be the year where I take that next step to start running in the (NASCAR) national series.”
Garcia hopes to join the likes of current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitors Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace who used the Drive for Diversity program as a springboard to further their racing careers.
For 2019, Garcia will again compete fulltime in the K&N Pro Series East and, if scheduling allows, run in the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series, where he’s a two-time champion, as well.
“It helped me a lot to have that seat time (in the Mexico Series) the last couple of years so if I can fill every weekend with a race, I will do it,” he said.
Francis, at 20, won his fifth consecutive Trans-Am championship this past season. He made two KNPSE starts for Rev Racing, with a best finish of second at New Jersey Motorsports Park. He will compete in Late Model events as well as select K&N races for the organization in ’19.
Cabre, 21, will return to KNPSE competition where he finished sixth and seventh in points in 2016-17.
Sanchez wrapped up his rookie campaign this past year in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The 17-year-old will race in a Rev Racing-fielded Late Model for ’19.
First-timers Stoner and Trotter have similar racing backgrounds. Storer is the 2018 sportsman track champ at Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, Fla., while Trotter spent the past season running CARS Tour and PASS Series events at tracks across the Carolinas and Virginia.
“The Drive for Diversity program continues to evolve,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager of racing operation and event management. “Everything from the way the combine is run each year to what we look for from the participants.
“I’ve seen improvements (across the board) and I think the program will only continue to get better.”
Rev Racing has been involved in NASCAR’s driver development program since 2010 and its KNPSE drivers have collected 19 victories, 88 top-five and 199 top-10 finishes during that time.