Venue: Bristol Motor Speedway
Laps Led: 0
NCTS Point Standings Position: 15th
Jake Garcia looked like a dirt track ace by scoring a sixth-place finish in his first start on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. The driver of the No. 35 Chevrolet Silverado delivered another impactful performance at one of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ (NCTS) most difficult tracks a week after earning his first-career top-five finish. The 18-year-old Georgian has now tallied three top 10 finishes in five starts this season and moved the No. 35 team up to 10th position in the NCTS owners’ point standings.
Garcia’s impressive outing started from 26th position in the 150-lap main event after he finished seventh in his passing points heat race earlier in the afternoon without the aid of any practice. The opening laps of the race featured tacky track conditions which favored drivers with significant dirt racing experience. Despite his lack of track time, Garcia climbed to 21st in the first 10 laps, primarily working the bottom of Bristol’s high banks. At the end of Stage 1 on lap 40, Garcia was scored 24th while still acclimating to the dirt racing skill set.
Crew chief Mark Hillman and the MHR team equipped Garcia with four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment under the first stage break to aid his loose balance. Garcia made more progress in the second stage, briefly advancing inside the top-15 by lap 80 and was scored 18th at the end of Stage 2 on lap 90. A shrewd strategy play by Hillman to keep Garcia on track netted him the 13th position for a restart on lap 91.
Garcia remained committed to the bottom lane as the track surface dried out, which allowed him to draw on his asphalt short track background. The rookie of the year candidate displayed veteran-like experience with smooth throttle inputs on corner exit and moved himself into the top-10 by lap 109. Garcia narrowly avoided a multi-truck crash on lap 132, which allowed him to restart within reach of the top five. On lap 141, Garcia lined up in row three with nine laps remaining and threatened to take a top-five spot. He took the checkered flag in sixth for back-to-back top 10 results for the first time in his NCTS career.
Jake Garcia Quote:
“I went in here changing my driving style, trying to drive it like a dirt car. Once I started driving it like an asphalt car, it kind of came to me, so obviously I need to stick to what I’m good at. The dirt stuff is a little different for me, but I like it. A lot of fun. But yeah, sixth is definitely better than I could have expected, personally. So, I’m excited about it and ready to go on to Martinsville. Hopefully we can get another top-10 and maybe contend for a win at Martinsville.”