Nick Sanchez finished his race season about a month ago feeling good about what he had learned in his rookie late model season.
He recently received more accolades to make his first year racing in Division I of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series even more special.
Sanchez is the 2019 recipient of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award, an annual award given to an outstanding minority or female driver in the Whelen All-American Series. The award recipient is selected by a committee as nominated by drivers, crew members, and track operators based not only on the driver’s final standings in the top 500 of the national standings, but also based on exceptional on-track performance, sportsmanship, and community service.
The award is named for Wendell Scott, a Virginian who on December 1, 1963 became the first, and to date only, African-American driver to win a race in NASCAR’s top national series.
Scott was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
Sanchez said he got a call from a NASCAR official about a week ago out of the blue to learn he won the award. He will officially receive the award Saturday on stage at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the NASCAR Awards.
"Honestly it was a total surprise because I really hadn’t thought much of it and I was so focused on just trying to win and the unreal idea of trying to go for a national championship and I totally forgot about that award," Sanchez said. "And when someone told me about it I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ That’s an awesome accomplishment as well."
Sanchez drives for Rev Racing, the competition arm of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program that serves as the NASCAR-supported racing team that develops female and minority drivers and pit crew members in development series for future competition at NASCAR’s highest levels.
The 18-year-old Miami, Florida, driver got his start with Rev Racing running in its Legends Car program before moving up to Late Models this year. He credited his team with helping him win the Wendell Scott award.
"It feels pretty good and especially how it’s a performance-based award, it really shows that my Rev guys brought a good late model the whole year," he said. "I’m pretty excited for it. It’s a nice accomplishment."
Sanchez finished 23rd in the Whelen All-American Series Division I final points standings. He had one national points win and 15 top-5 finishes in 20 late model starts this season.
Sanchez also ran three races in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year, and had a pole start at South Boston Speedway on May 4.
In the late model, Sanchez and his Rev Racing team traveled to five different tracks this season: Motor Mile, South Boston, and Langley Speedways in Virginia, Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina, and Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He also raced at Loudon Speedway in New Hampshire in a K&N Pro East race on September 21. Getting the chance to see his fair share of different sized tracks with character gave him the opportunity to really dive in and get his feet wet in his first season.
"I couldn’t imagine racing at one track with the same people, just the same routine," Sanchez said. "I love getting different challenges thrown at me, whether it be different tracks, different drivers, different races, twins or long races. I can attribute all that to my success I guess you could say this year.
"Definitely stepping into the K&N car, especially that last race at New Hampshire I definitely got a ton of big track experience and definitely got my feet wet there which I’m pretty stoked about."
Sanchez finished his season with a win at Langley Speedway, helping finish the year on a high note. After feeling like he missed out on victories early in the year, he was glad to see he had gotten past early "rookie mistakes."
"Honestly, by the end of the year I felt like I progressed more as a driver than I ever had," Sanchez said. "I was a lot more patient at the end of the year because at the beginning of the year, I’m not going to lie, I gave up many, many, many wins just on not knowing any better. By the end of the year I kind of learned my lesson and revamped my racing mindset, I guess you could say."
Sanchez said he hopes to be able to release his plans for the 2020 soon, and he’s "very stoked" about it.
For now, he has many reasons to be proud of his rookie season.
"That makes it a lot more special just knowing people voted for me based on performance and everything else," Sanchez said. "It’s a pretty nice accomplishment. I’m pretty proud."