The 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season started in a familiar fashion for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and the Rev Racing team of drivers with two finishing inside the top-ten here, at the world’s fastest half mile, last night.
Ryan Gifford piloted his No. 2 Universal Technical Institute/Toyota Camry to a third place finish and his teammate, Kyle Larson, fought a loose condition but managed to secure a ninth place finish for his No. 6 Toyota Camry in his first career K&N start.
“We had a really good UTI/Toyota Camry all week,” said Gifford. “It was a great start to the season and I’m excited about what’s in store for the rest of the year. My crew chief (Dennis Conner) did a super job giving me a very fast car. I didn’t get it to the top this time, but we’ve got the team in place to make that happen soon enough”
The night started with a few challenges for the Rev Racing program as Gifford’s teammate, Bryan Ortiz, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, had a track bar bracket break during the qualifying attempt in his No. 4 Toyota Camry and had to start at the rear of the 35 car field. Larson qualified sixth, Gifford seventh and teammate Jorge Arteaga, a native of Aguascalientes, Mexico, one of three Rookie-of-the-Year contenders from Rev Racing, started the night in the twenty-third starting position.
Arteaga brought out the second caution of the night on lap 30 when he made contact with the front stretch retaining wall while trying to avoid a sliding car off of turn four. While the damage was repaired, Arteaga went several laps down and finished the night in thirtieth position.
At the caution Larson was in third position, Gifford in fifth and Ortiz had already moved up eleven spots to twenty-fourth. They continued to battle for top positions until the halfway break at lap 69. At the break Gifford was still in fifth, Larson had dropped to ninth and Ortiz had moved up to nineteenth.
After the break, Gifford, Larson and Ortiz continued to display their talent and at the night’s last caution on lap 119, all three found themselves inside the top-fifteen.
If a rookie debut at Thunder Valley, and the first ever K&N Pro Series East race at the venue, wasn’t enough excitement then a Green, White, Checkered finish no doubt had the hearts pounding for the young NASCAR Drive for Diversity drivers.
“After the start we had, I was just happy to be in the race and to be in a good position at the end,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz moved up twenty positions to fiftieth before the final restart and ended the night in fourteenth position, earning him the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award.
“All of the drivers did a very good job at one of NASCAR’s most challenging tracks,” said Jefferson Hodges, Rev Racing’s Director of Competition. “A top-three; a top-ten; making up twenty-one positions on this track, as a rookie driver, and in your debut race and for another rookie driver to remain competitive after a wreck on lap 30; what more can I say? I’m extremely proud of this entire team. This is going to be an exciting year for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program.”