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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:

Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

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The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021 but will race on the road course for the first time instead of the oval, track officials announced Wednesday.

Cup will race on the road course on Aug. 15. That race will be held a day after the NTT IndyCar Series races on the Indy road course.

“Our first NASCAR-IndyCar weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants involved,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and IndyCar together during this exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

MORE: Atlanta to have two Cup dates in 2021

MORE: Darlington to run Cup races on Mother’s Day, Labor Day weekend in 2021

The Cup Series has raced at Indy since 1994. But as the racing there has been questioned and the sport has made a push for more road course races, NASCAR moved the Xfinity Series to the road course this year as a trial. The event was well received, creating the opportunity to move next year’s Cup race to the road course as well.

“Indy is Indy, no matter if you’re on the road course or you’re on the oval,” Joey Logano said of what a win there would mean. “It doesn’t matter. If you’re on the dirt track, I don’t care, it’s Indy. It’s that big deal to win there. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Cup car, IndyCar or a tricycle, you want to win at that race track.”

Indy’s road course is 2.439 miles and features 14 turns. Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity race there after a four-car battle for the lead in the final laps.

The full Cup schedule will be announced Wednesday afternoon. The Xfinity schedule will be announced at a later date. Boles said on a media Zoom he was unsure of the Xfinity plans but talked with Logano about an interest Logano would have in running in a Xfinity race there to get more track time for the Cup race.

 

Darlington Raceway gets second Cup race for 2021

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Darlington Raceway will have two races in 2021, marking the first time since 2004 that the track has been scheduled to hold multiple Cup races in a season. The track announced its schedule Wednesday with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster at the Governor’s mansion.

“Congratulations. Thank you. Hallelujah,” Gov. McMaster said after the dates were announced.

Darlington was scheduled to host one race in 2020 but added two more in NASCAR’s return to racing after the season was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MORE: Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021 for first time since 2010

The track will hold its first Cup race next season on May 9. That is Mother’s Day. It marks only the third time in the last 40 years the series will have run on Mother’s Day. The series last raced on Mother’s Day in 2007 when rain forced the Darlington race to be held that afternoon. The only other time NASCAR raced on Mother’s Day in the last 40 years was 1986 when the All-Star Race was held at Atlanta.

Darlington’s second date will be its Southern 500 event on Sept. 5, Labor Day weekend. That race will again open the  Cup playoffs.

NASCAR will announce the 2021 Cup schedule on Wednesday afternoon.

Darlington hosted two Cup races a season from 1960-2004. It held one Cup race from 2005-19.

The track stated that 2021 schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be announced at a later date.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted that the Darlington races would be run with the low downforce package.

 

 

Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021

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Atlanta Motor Speedway will host two Cup races in 2021, marking the first time since 2010 that the 1.5-mile speedway will have multiple Cup events in the same season.

Atlanta will host Cup races on March 21 and July 11.

The July 11 race will be the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart, moving sponsorship that had been with Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky Speedway will not be on the 2021 schedule. Its date becomes the second Atlanta date. The March race will be known at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

The July race marks the first 400-mile race at Atlanta since 1966.

The track announced its dates Wednesday morning. The full 2021 Cup schedule will be released Wednesday afternoon.

Atlanta Motor Speedway stated on its website that it plans to host fans in its stands and camping areas in socially distanced, limited capacity for each of its Cup races in 2021.

“We’re beyond excited to deliver what our fans have been yearning for: a second weekend of NASCAR action in Atlanta once again,” AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison said in a statement. “Folds of Honor and QuikTrip continue to be phenomenal partners for our spring weekend of racing and we’re thrilled to have Quaker State and Walmart on board this summer as we put together two weekends of entertainment and excitement for race fans.”

Talladega Truck starting lineup

Talladega Truck starting lineup
Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Sheldon Creed will lead the Talladega Truck starting lineup to the green flag in Saturday’s playoff race.

Creed led a race-high 89 laps last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before finishing second to Austin Hill. That win moved Hill to the next round of the playoffs.

Hill will start Saturday’s race second. Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger and Chandler Smith will follow him.

Click here for starting lineup

The race is the final event in the first round. Two drivers will be eliminated. Ben Rhodes is six points behind Christian Eckes for the final transfer spot. Todd Gilliland trails Eckes by 19 points.

Eckes starts sixth, Gilliland starts 10th and Rhodes starts 11th.

“We’re gonna go in there and be aggressive,” Gilliland said. “If we wreck trying to go for the win, I think we can live with ourselves on that, whereas other guys that might be able to let someone in and still make it on points, those guys are gonna be looking behind them and worrying about points this whole week. For us, it’s pretty simple.  There’s no one behind us. We can only move forward from here if we do our job right.”

The Talladega Truck starting lineup is set by using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, owner final race position, the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Performance Metrics Qualifying is a total number based on the previous race. The formula is 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position. Any ties will be broken by the rule book.

NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega 

Race time: 1 p.m. ET, Saturday

Track: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Alabama (2.66-mile speedway)

Length: 94 laps (250.04 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 20. Stage 2 ends Lap 40.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Lineup: Click here for starting lineup

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Talladega (113 laps, 300.58 miles), 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Cup race: Sunday at Talladega (188 laps, 500 miles), 2 p.m. ET on NBC