It hasn’t been the best of times for Ruben Garcia Jr. so far in the 2019 K&N Pro Series East season.
A championship favorite and series veteran coming into the season, Garcia realized that time is running out on him “making it” in NASCAR. He even admitted “it’s now or never” to NASCAR.com in the offseason when looking ahead to 2019.
But only one top five in five races has him sitting ninth in the standings, 36 points behind championship leader Derek Kraus.
“It obviously wasn’t the start we thought it was going to be,” Garcia told NASCAR.com of his first five races. “There were a couple races where we had pretty good speed, I felt like we could’ve been in contention for the win. But just bad luck, especially Bristol and Memphis. We were pretty good at both tracks, just got involved in accidents at both and couldn’t finish how we were supposed to. We’ve been struggling a little bit.”
Racing-Reference: Ruben Garcia Jr. Career Statistics
Garcia kicked off the year with a respectable eighth-place finish at New Smyrna, crashed on the first lap at Bristol due to an issue in front of him, scored a pair of top 10s in South Boston and struggled in Memphis, got spun by Ty Gibbs and wound up coming home 12th.
“I think this new tire, my crew chief and myself, we haven’t worked with them before,” he said of General Tire. “So we’re trying to learn from them, get used to them and I think the teams that have raced with those tires in a different series are at a little advantage right now.”
The positioning for Garcia in the standings at the moment isn’t from a lack of effort. He’s in the Rev Racing shop almost everyday and sees the groundwork being laid for more success.
“My teams been working really really hard,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of time since Thompson got cancelled. Every time I go (to the shop), they’ve got the cars in the shop and they’re working on them all. I’m pretty positive we can turn the season around. I know we’re far back in points, but if we can keep running well I know we’ll climb back in the standings.”
The confidence isn’t short with Garcia for a reason. He has experience in this very scenario.
“I’ve done this before in the PEAK Mexico Series,” he said. “In the middle of the season, I was 13th in points and finished second (at the end of the season). I know what it takes, it’s just about adapting the knowledge to the K&N Pro Series and running strong the second half of the season.”
The two-time series winner pointed to Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway (where he was the best K&N East regular last season), Iowa Speedway (finished fifth) and Dover (won last season) as tracks he’s circled on his calendar to make up ground.
“I know it’s hard because we’re in a place right now where we can’t afford a single mistake,” he said. “If we don’t run good in one of the remaining races, our chances will be gone. But I’m also really positive because there are some really good race tracks coming up for us. I’m really excited to go to those places. I think we can catch up there, but it also depends on how well the other cars are running. We can be up there in the top three spots by the time we get to Dover (season finale).”
Although his results in the states haven’t been to his liking, the Mexico City native has been dominating south of the border in the PEAK Mexico Series.
In five races, he’s yet to finish outside the top five and has visited Victory Lane three times already. Combine his success in Mexico with the good vibes emulating from Rev Racing’s shop due to Chase Cabre’s Memphis win, Nick Sanchez’s first late model win at South Boston, the Summer Shootout happening at Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as Gracie Trotter and Brooke Storer’s success and you have a lot of positives.
“The whole team is going through a good summer stretch right now,” he said. “I hope I can keep that momentum rolling in the next three races we have in a row. The good atmosphere at the shop right now definitely helps me work a little harder and keep this going.”
Garcia’s next event will be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the United Site Services 70 on Saturday, July 20.