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NASCAR’s Next Generation: Q&A with Ruben Garcia Jr.

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Last year, there were three full-time drivers in the NASCAR Mexico Series named Ruben.

The best one was Ruben Garcia Jr. The Mexico City native won three races on the way to winning the NASCAR Mexico Series championship for the first time.

It was an achievement his father, Ruben Garcia Novoa, was never able to accomplish in his time in the series. The closest he came was second in 2006, the year before the series became sanctioned by NASCAR.

The elder Garcia did have success in his racing career, winning seven championships in Mexico. But his son, a member of NASCAR Next which highlights rising stars in the sport, doesn’t feel pressured by the heights of his career.

“Not pressure, but motivated,” Garcia told NASCAR Talk. “My father was and still is my biggest hero and my biggest goal to reach in my life. It is important to me to reach that goal and to get more championships and a bigger career.”

The next stop in Garcia’s career is Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where the new member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program will live as he competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NASCAR Talk: When was the first time you ever visited the United States?

Ruben Garcia Jr.: I think when I was really young I went to Orlando to visit Disney World, like 16 years ago.

NT: What do you remember about that?

Garcia: It was a great experience because everything was new for me. Being a young kid going to Disney World for the first time is the greatest life experience a kid can have.

NT: What’s your earliest memory related to auto racing?

Garcia: When I was really young, I really enjoyed going to race weekend with my dad. I was 4 years old or 3 years old. For me it was like the best thing that could happen in my weekend, going with my dad to races. I think it was a touring car series that was running in Mexico by that time. I went with my dad and the team finished first and third with my dad winning. I was really, really young, so it was a cool moment for me to see that moment of success for the team.

NT: When did you decide you wanted to pursue auto racing as a career?

Garcia: I think there was two important times in my life. The first one was when I did my first race in a go-kart when I was 5 and I really, really enjoyed it. The second time, when I was 8, I drove for the first time a touring car. The engine noise, the shifting, the sensation of acceleration and braking and turning. It was like one of the most emotional moments of my life at that time. That was when I really decided I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.

NT: What’s on your bucket list that’s not related to racing?

Garcia: Travelling around the world, I really like travelling. Getting to know new places, new cultures. I like airplanes. I would like to fly an airplane.

NELLIS AFB, NV - APRIL 25: A United States Air Force F-22 Raptor takes off from Nellis Air Force Base while participating in the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2006 (JEFX 06) April 25, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. JEFX is a biannual test of new systems and technologies by every branch of the military in an attempt to speed their introduction into the modern battlefield. This year's tests involve about 1,400 personnel from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Australia studying new technologies during mock combat over the Nevada desert and center on finding better ways to communicate critical information between armed forces. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ruben Garcia Jr. hopes to one day fly a F-22 Raptor. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

NT: What kind of plane?

Garcia: I really like the F-22 (Raptor), it would be like a dream come true if I can one day fly a F-22.

NT: When did you first start to learn English?

Garcia: When I was in primary school I went to a bilingual school where I’d go half of the day in Spanish and the other half in English … I think that’s when I learned the most.

NT: Have there been any racing terms that you struggled to learn in English?

Garcia: Not that much, because in Mexico most of the terms you use in America we use in Mexico. So not that much, but for me sometimes it’s hard to understand the spotters when they’re talking in English because they talk fast and the radio is not the best quality audio.

NT: Who are the most important people you have met through NASCAR Next?

Garcia: Big celebrities, maybe (NASCAR vice chairman) Mike Helton or Rick Hendrick. Maybe those are the most important guys. I also met Donald Trump once in Miami.

NT: What was that like?

Garcia: I couldn’t speak that much with him because there was a lot of people trying to speak with him. But we were at the (2014) Xfinity banquet in Miami and he was there because we were at his hotel. The girl that is in charge of NASCAR Next introduced him to all of us, we took picture with him. It was an interesting moment.

Previous NASCAR Next Q&A’s:

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin leads the way to Miami

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With his win at Phoenix and advancing to the Championship 4 race in Miami, Denny Hamlin is once again back on top of this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Not surprisingly, all four drivers who will battle for the championship are in the top four in this week’s rankings. Kyle Busch is second, last week’s No. 1, Kevin Harvick, drops to third, and Martin Truex Jr. is fourth, as voted on by NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers.

Hamlin made the biggest jump in the standings, going from No. 7 last week to the top of the heap this week.

Conversely, Joey Logano, who was No. 3 last week, suffers the biggest drop, down to No. 8 – and also misses on his bid to defend last year’s championship this Sunday at Miami (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Here is this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Denny Hamlin (39 points): Entered ISM Raceway outside a transfer spot to the title race and now he might be the favorite to win it all. Or at least be co-favorite with teammate Martin Truex Jr. Last week: Seventh.

2. Kyle Busch (34 points): Could be the underdog at Miami. With everything on the line, is one of the best performers in pressure-packed situations – especially with a championship and snapping a 21-race winless streak on the line. Last week: Fourth.

3. Kevin Harvick (29 points): Lone wolf in the Joe Gibbs Racing party for the championship. But he may actually have the edge, as he has three teammates who can help him, while it’s every man for himself for the three JGR drivers. Last week: First.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (28 points): Has not finished worse than sixth in the last four races. Also has the most wins (seven) of the four championship drivers. Last week: Second.

5. Ryan Blaney (26 points): Finished fifth, eighth and third in the Round of 8 but it still wasn’t good enough to advance to the title race. Last week: Fifth.

6. Kyle Larson (22 points): Fourth-place finish was good effort but missed out on last chance to run for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one of his best tracks. Was Chevrolet’s last hope; the bow tie has not reached the Championship 4 for the last three years. Last week: Sixth.

7. Erik Jones (14 points): Has three top 10s in last four races. While showed some signs of promise during the playoffs, the fact remains he’s likely going to finish 16th (last) among all playoff qualifiers when everything is said and done after Miami. Last week: Unranked.

8. Joey Logano (9 points): So close, yet so far away. Will we ever learn what happened to his car in the final stage that cost him a chance to defend last year’s title at Miami? Last week: Third.

9. Justin Allgaier (6 points): Xfinity win at ISM Raceway was his career-best 16th consecutive top-10 finish. Could he steal the championship from the “Big Three?” Last week: Unranked.

10. Christopher Bell (4 points): With Xfinity Series-leading eight wins, enters title race as favorite. This will be his Xfinity swan song before moving to Cup next season. What better way to leave than to go out on top. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Clint Bowyer (3 points), Brad Keselowski (2 points), Cole Custer (2 points), Stewart Friesen (1 point).

Nashville Fair Board votes to terminate contract with operator of Fairgrounds Speedway

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
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The Nashville Metro Fair Board voted Tuesday to terminate its contract with the operator of Fairgrounds Speedway, a track being eyed for a possible NASCAR race, according to The Tennessean.

Last December, Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway announced “an agreement to explore bringing major NASCAR racing events” back to the .596-mile track. The earliest Nashville could potentially be added to the schedule is 2021, though the schedule for that season is expected to be revealed in April.

Bristol Motor Speedway released a statement Tuesday night saying it is still interested in pursuing future involvement with the Fairgrounds Speedway.

“We appreciate all that Tony and Claire Formosa have done to sustain local racing in Nashville over the years,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway. “Today’s news does not change our interest or belief that Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can be returned to prominence to help create a true renovation of the Fairgrounds. There is huge local, regional and national interest in the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. As Mayor (John) Cooper, the Fair Board and Council determine what’s next for the historic race track, we are ready to engage with them on the vision that we believe can deliver a bright future for the Fairgrounds.”

The vote to terminate the contract with Formosa Productions, operated by Tony and Claire Formosa, is in response to a claimed breach of contract, which was first raised by the city in April and includes unpaid concessions commissions and rent payments.

A fairgrounds spokesperson told The Tennessean that the Formosas would owe the city nearly $180,000 by the end of the year. The Tennessean reports the Formosas have 90 days to vacate the premises.

According to The Tennessean, Nashville Fairgrounds Director Laura Womack said she and another board member met Oct. 14 with the Formosas and asked that they provide specific contract changes and documents regarding attendance and revenue records from this year’s racing season.

A meeting where those documents were due to be delivered was rescheduled to Nov. 6 before it was canceled by the Formosas.

“This shows little to no faith that we will be paid by the end of the year,” said Fair Board member Caleb Hemmer, according to The Tennessean. “Which begs the issue that we need to start looking to the future and what we need to do as a board to ensure there’s racing next year if the (Formosas) can’t fulfill their obligations as put forth by (the contract).”

Jim Roberts, an attorney representing the Formosas, attended the meeting according to The Tennessean. Roberts believed the meeting, which was delayed two hours due to winter weather, was in violation of the opens meeting act due to it not being properly noticed.

The Formosas have operated the track since 2010 and entered into a five-year agreement in 2017 after the city chose its bid over one from Bristol Motor Speedway

The deal between Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway, which would need to be approved by the Fair Board, would focus “on a long-range plan of significant track improvements and high-profile race events that could include NASCAR events upon the facility meeting standards.”

In May, Bristol officials revealed a $60 million proposal to renovate the track.

The plan would increase seating capacity of the .596-mile short track from its current size of 15,000 to 30,000, as well as include an expanded concourse, premium seating, pedestrian tunnels and sound barriers.

 

Penalty report from ISM Raceway

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NASCAR has fined five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on their cars after last weekend’s playoff races at ISM Raceway.

Each fine was for having a single unsecured lug nut.

In the Cup Series:

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, and Mike Hillman Sr., crew chief on J.J. Yeley‘s No. 53 Chevrolet, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series:

Taylor Moyer, crew chief on Zane Smith‘s No. 8 Chevrolet, was fined $5,000.

In the Truck Series:

Joe Shear, Jr., crew chief on Johnny Suater’s No. 13 Chevrolet, and Trip Bruce lll, crew chief on race winner Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, were fined $2,500.

Preliminary entry lists for Championship Weekend in Miami

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NASCAR’s final race weekend of the year has arrived with the championship races for all three of its national series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

A full field of 40 cars are entered into the race.

Drew Herring is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota for his Cup debut.

John Hunter Nemechek will make his third start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Joey Logano won this race last year over Martin Truex Jr. to claim his first Cup title.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered. One car will not qualify for the race.

Jeb Burton is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Cole Custer to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

There are 37 trucks entered. Five trucks will not qualify for the event.

K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Kraus is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota for his fifth start of the season.

Angela Ruch is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet.

Christian Eckes is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

No drivers are listed for NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 87 Chevrolet and Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 and No. 34 Toyotas.

Brett Moffitt won this race last year to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.