His father, Jairo, raced go-karts and motocross in his native Colombia, so it was easy for the younger Peña to follow in his footsteps.
In his eight-year professional career, Peña has raced motocross, go-karts, formula and late models before competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, and his father was with him every step of the way.
“He’s never missed a race in my entire life. He’s definitely been my biggest supporter throughout my entire career,” Peña said. “We’re more like brothers than father and son. I don’t think we would have the same super close relationship if it weren’t for racing.”
Though he was doing what he loved at the track almost every weekend, one of Peña’s biggest challenges during his youth was dealing with his parents’ divorce.
“Trying to keep both of them happy was difficult,” he said. “I was so close to my dad with all the racing stuff, that I felt like it may take away from the relationship with my mom. But, fortunately, it never did.”
He maintained a close bond with his mother, Tracey, as well as his younger sister, Gabriela, who now attends West Virginia University.
Since childhood, he has always kept racing at the forefront, but Peña didn’t let the sport keep him from living the life of an average kid.He still found time to play basketball, football, and soccer throughout middle school and high school in his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, even with racing almost year-round.
“I honestly don’t even know how we had the time,” he laughed. “I always tried to be involved in a bunch of sports.”
The 6-foot-3 driver still plays basketball almost every Tuesday night at a local church, and with a full-time racing schedule, he continues to remain just as active as he did when he was a child. When he isn’t racing, Peña enjoys mountain biking, swimming and running, specifically in charity events. This year, the 21-year-old participated in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 5K and the Gallopond Gallop 5K, where he came in second in his age group. He also loves jogging along Lake Norman, located in the Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville areas.
”I like anything outdoors and adventurous. I just love being active and getting my adrenaline flowing,” he said. “I’m always looking to push myself to my limit.”
He found himself striving to push his limit by joining the inaugural Rev Racing Team in 2010 at age 16. He grew up road course racing, so driving on the oval was a new obstacle for him. The young, aggressive driver welcomed the challenge and made his K&N debut at the All-Star Toyota Showdown where he stole the spotlight after capturing the pole and finishing second behind Joey Lagano. In his second year with the team, he tied for most wins in the NKNPSE with three victories as well as four top-5sand seven top-10s.
After graduating from James Wood High School in 2011, Peña attended Radford University for two years where he studied mechanical engineering and communications to enhance his racing career. He aimed to learn more about the car’s mechanical structure and how to properly conduct himself with the media.
While in college, Peña was a member of the NASCAR Next program, and it was then he discovered that it was nearly impossible to be a full-time racer and a full-time student. He decided to leave school to chase his dream.
“I really want to finish and get my degree, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I have to pursue right now,” he said.
Though Peña no longer physically attends to school, he continues his education in a different way. He has made it a habit to consistently practice Spanish. Growing up with his mother, who is a Spanish teacher, and his Colombian father, he could always understand the language but couldn’t speak it very well.
“I have no idea why I didn’t practice Spanish with them. I learned it just from hearing it all the time,” he said. “At a lot of the go-kart races, there were a lot of kids from Colombia racing with us, so since I heard it so much, I was able to catch on.”
Almost fluent in the language now, he’s been able to participate in interviews with Spanish-speaking networks this year. His Mexican teammate Daniel Suárez also continues to help him learn the language.
Aside from racing, he often takes a breather from his life in the fast lane to express his artistic side. Though he his known for his charisma and outgoing personality during interviews, he enjoys life behind the scenes and takes time to work on his photography and filming.
“I always took pictures when I was little. I just started to like it more and more as I grew up,” Peña said.
He shares his passion for photography with his friend and former Rev Racing teammate, Darrell Wallace, Jr. The two can often be found taking pictures in downtown Charlotte.
Peña also likes to play the piano and guitar in his spare time.
ABOUT REV RACING: Headquartered in Concord, NC, Rev Racing, owned by Max Siegel, operates the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program, which is the industry’s leading developmental program for ethnic minorities, women drivers, and pit crew members. For more information about Rev Racing visit https://revracing.net and follow us on Twitter @RevRacin.