Jessica Brunelli looked impressive in her debut at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway last night, coming from the back of the field to a third-place finish in the 100-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model race. Brunelli, Revolution Racing’s only late model rookie, had just two career late model starts going into this weekend’s race.

Brunelli’s Revolution Racing teammates, Katie Hagar and Jason Romero, finished sixth and eighth, respectively.

“I’m proud of myself and my team,” said Brunelli, driver of the No. 3 Revolution Racing Late Model. “I couldn’t have asked for a better car tonight… that was probably the best car I’ve ever raced. I’m glad I could give Revolution Racing a good finish in our first race here at Hickory.”

A mechanical issue during her qualifying warm up lap forced Brunelli to miss her qualifying attempt and start at the tail-end of the 14 car field. That didn’t slow Brunelli down, however. By lap 35, she had worked her way into the top five and settled comfortably into the fourth position. Race leader Kyle Moon pulled into the pits with a flat tire on lap 65, moving Brunelli into third place.

A restart with 15 laps to go gave Brunelli the opportunity to battle with the leaders, but she couldn’t advance her position and settled back into third. A late race charge by fourth-place Candace Muzny kept Brunelli on her toes. Muzny couldn’t make the pass and Brunelli crossed the line third for her career-best late model finish.

Hagar, driving the No. 4 D4D Crew Member Development Program presented by Sprint Late Model, finished sixth after qualifying 12th.

“I had my hands full tonight, that’s for sure,” said Hagar. “We didn’t get a lot of practice yesterday with the No. 4 D4D Crew Member Program Late Model, but I’m proud of all the hard work the guys put into getting the car ready for the race. We’ll go back to the shop and get it better for next week.”

Romero finished eighth in the No. 2 Distribution One Late Model after a 10th-place qualifying effort.“It’s good to get the first race of the season out of the way and I’m looking forward to coming back out here next week and doing it all over again,” said Romero. “I can’t thank everyone at Revolution Racing, Drive for Diversity and Distribution One enough for their support. This is going to be a great season.”

Brunelli, Hagar and Romero return to Hickory Motor Speedway next Saturday, March 27.

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