For a 17-year-old who has never driven full-bodied stock cars before, jumping straight into the K&N Pro Series sounds like a daunting task.
But Drew Dollar has taken on the challenge and executed in his rookie campaign thus far, scoring four top 10s and one top five finish in the first five events of the K&N Pro Series East season with DGR-Crosley.
"I think it’s been going pretty well," Dollar told NASCAR.com regarding his rookie season. "I haven’t had the finishes I know we’ve been capable of. Every single practice, we show up and we’ve been a top three car pretty much everywhere we’ve been in race trim for sure. I feel like we’ve had a shot to win every week. Some things haven’t gone our way. All that said, I feel like everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve had speed."
Dollar pointed to Bristol Motor Speedway as the place they’ve struggled the most. Ironically, that was the site of their best finish this season: fourth.
But the Atlanta native is hopping behind the wheel of other race cars in his spare time to remain fresh for K&N Pro Series. This weekend, he’s making his ARCA Menard’s Series debut for DGR at Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and has participated in three late model stock races on the CARS Tour at Southern National Raceway Park in North Carolina, as well as Motor Mile Speedway and Langley Speedway in Virginia.
I?ll be making my first ARCA start this weekend @WWTRaceway! Really excited to see what we can do!
— Drew Dollar (@DrewDollar00) June 19, 2019
Racing-Reference: Drew Dollar Career Statistics
"The competition in K&N is actually a little bit higher than I thought it was going to be," he said. "With some new teams that came out of the gate really fast, that was something that surprised me. But we’ve had fast cars everywhere, I expected to be fast everywhere we went. That’s the main thing."
And the No. 54 team has been. But the Rookie of the Year contender isn’t short on confidence only a handful of races into his stock car career.
"Honestly, this sounds kind of crazy, but I kind of expected we’d win by now," Dollar admitted. "I know we’ve only had five races, but with how we’ve been running I thought we’d have at least one under our belt. Tanner (Gray) got one in South Boston in the first race-that was the main one I felt like we’d have a good shot at if it went green. We’ve had a ton of speed in long green flag runs. That’s something that I expected, but some of these tracks coming up for us will be good for sure."
Adjusting to a new vehicle and series is tough for any driver, moreover a 17-year-old rookie. Not having a consistent crew chief atop the pit box doesn’t help, either.
Dollar has had Derek Smith, Kevin "Bono" Manion and Chris Lawson calling the shots so far this season. Moving forward, DGR has tasked Lawson, a two-time K&N Pro West champion with Todd Gilliland and 17-time winner in K&N, to lead Dollar for the remainder of 2019.
"It’s been tough, the change of who you’re working with all the time," Dollar said. "It’ll be good for me to work with him for the majority of my races and I think as the season continues, being able to work with somebody almost every weekend is a big advantage. It’s tough when you’re changing. (The crew chiefs) all good over here, but there are different ways of communicating about the car. The communication between me and Lawson is really good and will only get better."
As if the kid didn’t have enough to sort through, he’s just finishing up a move from Atlanta a couple hours north to the Charlotte area, one he’s executed in order to remain closer to the team on a daily basis.
"I haven’t had any issues," he said of the move. "Just feels really good to be at the shop and travel with the team instead having to travel from Atlanta. There’s little things I get to do up here that I wouldn’t get to do if I wasn’t living here. I like it a ton."
The next event for the K&N Pro Series East will take place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 20. The United Site Services 70 is scheduled to go green at approximately 6:45 p.m. EDT.