Story By: JASON CHRISTLEY / NASCAR – MILLINGTON, TN – Ruben Garcia Jr. said it has always been his dream to race in NASCAR in the United States. And that thanks to Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity, he got that opportunity.
It hasn’t always been an easy acclimation for the 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion, but the 22-year-old from Mexico City saw the fruits of his perseverance pay off Saturday evening as he scored his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win.
Garcia jumped to the lead after the Lap 100 break and had the No. 6 Max Siegel Inc. Toyota out front for the final 38 laps en route to claiming the checkered flag in the Memphis 150 presented by Autozone at Memphis International Raceway.
The 22-year-old from Mexico City set a blistering pace over the final third of the race, crossing the finish line .598 seconds ahead of runner-up and series points leader Tyler Ankrum. Ankrum’s DGR-Crosley teammate, Tyler Dippel, finished third.
Garcia became the seventh different driver from the NASCAR Drive For Diversity Driver Development Program to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and gave Rev Racing, which has fielded the competition team for the program since 2010, its 18th win.
Garcia is his third full season in the K&N Pro Series. After finishing 10th in points as a rookie 2016, the NASCAR Next alum improved to fifth last year. He finished second at Bristol Motor Speedway and led a race-high 79 laps in the finale at Dover International Speedway in 2017, but was still in search of that elusive breakthrough win.
After qualifying fifth, Garcia spent the first 100 laps bidding his time. He restarted after the second break in eighth, as everybody but race leader Hailie Deegan and her Bill McAnally Racing teammate Derek Kraus elected to pit. When the race resumed, Garcia quickly cut his way to the front. He was up to third by lap 107 and went by Kraus for second a later. He wasted no time in reeling in Ankrum, who had bolted to the lead on the restart.
After grabbing the lead, he stretched it quickly to a half-second within five laps and was able to drive it home from there.
He is the fourth Mexican-born driver to win in the series, following Ruben Pardo (2006), Rogelio Lopez (2007) and three-time series race winner Daniel Suarez (most recently 2014).
Garcia also led a Rev Racing contingent that also finished fourth (Chase Cabre) and seventh (Ryan Vargas).
Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished fifth, followed by his brother Dillon. After Vargas, Colin Garrett, Anthony Alfredo and Marcos Gomes rounded out the top 10.
Earlier in the day, Ankrum set a track record with his pole qualifying time. His runner-up finish allowed him to bump his championship points lead to 14 over Dippel and 34 over Ronnie Bassett. Alfredo is fourth and Vargas fifth. Garcia moved up to sixth, two points behind Vargas.
The Memphis 150 presented by Autozone will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to the track on Saturday, June 16, with the JUSTDRIVE.com 125 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Ruben Garcia Jr. races in the NASCAR K&N Series Memphis 150 presented by Autozone at Memphis International Raceway on Saturday, June 2, 2018 in Millington, Tennessee. (Photo by Sara D. Davis, NASCAR)
Ruben Garcia Jr. (6) led the final 38 laps in the Memphis 150 presented by Autozone at Memphis International Raceway on Saturday in Millington, Tennessee. (Sara D. Davis/ NASCAR)
NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST-Memphis 150 presented by AutoZone Results
At Memphis International Raceway
Lap length: 0.75 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (5) Ruben Garcia Jr., Mexico City, Mexico, Toyota, 150 laps, 93.361 mph.
2. (1) Tyler Ankrum, San Bernadino, CA, Toyota, 150.
3. (2) Tyler Dippel, Wallkill, N.Y., Toyota, 150.
4. (6) Chase Cabre, Tampa, Fla., Toyota, 150.
5. (7) Ronnie Bassett Jr., Winston-Salem, NC, Chevrolet, 150.
6. (12) Dillon Bassett, Winston-Salem, N.C., Chevrolet, 150.
7. (16) Ryan Vargas, La Miranda, Calif, Toyota, 150.
8. (11) Colin Garrett, Elmo, Va., Toyota, 150.
9. (9) Anthony Alfredo, Ridgefield, CT, Toyota, 150.
10. (17) Marcos Gomes, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, Toyota, 150.
11. (3) Grant Quinlan, Maidstone, Canada, Ford, 150.
12. (18) J.P. Morgan, Mooresville, NC, Chevrolet, 150.
13. (13) Hailie Deegan, Temecula, CA, Toyota, 149.
14. (8) Derek Kraus, Stratford, Wis., Toyota, 149.
15. (14) Trey Hutchens, Lexington, NC, Chevrolet, 149.
16. (19) Armani Williams, Detroit, MI, Ford, 147.
17. (15) Juan Manuel Gonzalez, Mexico City, Mexico, Chevrolet, 146.
18. (10) Cole Rouse, Fort Rouse, AR, Toyota, 142.
19. (4) Spencer Davis, Dawsonville, Ga., Chevrolet, 139, electrical.
Time of Race: 1 hour 12 minutes 18 seconds
Margin of Victory: .598 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: T.Ankrum * (117.493 mph, 22.98 seconds)
Caution Flags: 3 for 13 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: T. Ankrum 1-27; S. Davis 28-80; T. Ankrum 81-101; H. Deegan 102; H. Deegan 103-104; D. Kraus 105-106; T. Ankrum 107-112; R. Garcia Jr. 113-150.
Standings: 1. T. Ankrum, 256; 2. T. Dippel, 242; 3. R. Bassett Jr., 222; 4. A. Alfredo, 201; 5. R. Vargas, 196; 6. R. Garcia Jr., 194; 7. D. Bassett, 188; 8. C. Cabre, 185; 9. S. Davis, 176; 10. J. Gonzalez, 176.