Jake Garcia continued his rookie season with another consistent performance on his first start at Martinsville Speedway on Friday night, resulting in a 13th place finish. The driver of the No. 35 Chevrolet Silverado made further ground on a playoff spot by moving up three positions in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers’ points standings and finishing 12th after seven races. Garcia’s run also put the No. 35 team in 11th place in the owners’ points standings.
Garcia started the eventful night at Martinsville Speedway from 18th position after overcoming a loose condition in qualifying under sunny skies on Friday afternoon. Immediately after the order to extinguish the vehicles, a lightning strike interrupted the evening’s events, followed by a heavy rain shower that soaked the 800 m long expressway. For the first time in NASCAR history, teams unscrewed wet tires for an oval race and the green flag was raised on a wet track.
Garcia’s raw skill and truck control really came into its own as he quickly moved up from 18th on the grid to 11th on lap 16 in wet track conditions. A competition warning was issued on lap 27 as the track dried out, allowing teams to switch to slick tires in an uncompetitive pit stop cycle. Garcia chose the bottom lane for the lap 44 restart and finished 13th at the end of stage one on lap 50.
Crew boss Mark Hillman kept Garcia on track with just seven green flag laps on the tires. Another shower and red flag during the stage warning halted the action before restarting on lap 72 in completely dry conditions. Garcia started again in 13th and moved up to 11th by lap 87 and was classified 13th by the end of stage 2 on lap 100. The rookie rider battled a tense condition through a succession of two shortened runs and periods of caution to start the final stage. Unfortunately, precipitation returned during a caution on lap 116, ending the race early after 124 laps with Garcia in 13th place.
Jake Garcia quote:
“It was difficult to get into a rhythm with the start on rain tires and the change to slicks. There were a lot of really short runs where we went green, so you had to take as much time off the restarts as possible. Our Chevrolet Silverado RST was pretty good on the wet tires at the start and went up to 11th place, but towards the end of the night we just fought hard. We’re taking the next few weeks off to prepare for Kansas and hopefully have a good run there.”