Patience. This was the sentiment that Sergio Peña expressed after taking the checkered in Saturday night’s JEGS 150 at Columbus Motor Speedway. Peña hasn’t had the season that he’d hoped for and he isn’t shy about letting that be known. However, despite the obstacles, the one thing that the Winchester, Virginia native has never done is give up. Peña had shown glimpses of dominance as of late, qualifying no worst than 11th in each of the last five races. However, Peña and crew have struggled to find the winning formula, as only one of those starts has garnered a top-10. All of that changed Saturday night as Peña was adamant that getting over the hump and finally winning a race was not a matter of “if”, rather a matter of “when”.
“We have definitely turned the season around. I really think we could have won at New Hampshire but we were just unlucky. In regards to Columbus, we ended up in front and kept the car in one piece throughout the race. We drove hard. I can’t say that we did anything different for Columbus as we’ve had some really fast cars as of late. It’s just been a matter of taking advantage of them. In Columbus, I just happened to be in the right place at right time and it all worked out,” said Peña enthusiastically.
Entering the race, Peña and Gifford were the Rev Racing favorites after both drivers qualified in the top-5. Immediately after taking the green, some quick shifting allowed Gifford to move up to second place while Peña fell to fifth. Both drivers maintained their positions until roughly the 25-lap marker. It was then that Peña and Gifford began losing position. Competitors were making aggressive moves to the inside on turn 3, and both drivers conceded instead of challenging. By lap 40, Gifford had fallen out of the top-5 and Peña had fallen out of the top-10. Such passive behavior was a little uncharacteristic of both drivers as they’re usually the ones making the aggressive moves. However, upon further listen to each drivers radio, Peña and Gifford’s crew chiefs were encouraging each driver to race at their own pace and keep their lines, regardless of the actions their competitors took.
Keeping one’s line proved to be crucial at the Columbus Motor Speedway as 5 of the 6 cautions occurred from drivers being overly aggressive and spinning out in turn 4.
Luckily, a spinout on lap-42 allowed the drivers to regroup. After taking the green flag that followed, Peña and Gifford essentially swapped positions and Peña was now sitting at sixth while Gifford slid to eleventh. Over the course of the next 80 laps, Peña and Gifford maintained position relatively well, only fluctuating one position either ways. However, teammate Beasley utilized those same 80 laps to increase his 17th place position until he cracked the top-10 and landed at ninth place.
By lap 120, Peña had waited long enough and decided to make his move. Over the course of the next five laps he made some aggressive moves and managed to fight his way into first place. It appeared the race was all but won, until a caution with 10 laps to go set the stage for a wire-to-wire finish. The race remained under caution for the next 8 laps. It became apparent that whoever took advantage of the subsequent green flag was going to be the winner of the race.
After taking the green with two laps to go, Peña did everything in his power to hold on to his first place position and immediately jumped out to a 2-car lead by the time he came around for the white flag. From there, he cruised to an easy victory.
Not to be discounted are the efforts of teammate Gifford who also took the checkered flag in the top-5. Sitting in P6 during the final caution, he was also in a dogfight over the course of the final two laps. Luckily, Gifford was able to persevere and come out on top when challenging for the final spot in the top-5.
Unfortunately, not every Rev Racing driver benefitted from the final two restarts. Jay Beasley, who had managed to fight his way into the top-10, fell a few spots over the final 20 laps and took the checkered in 13th
Rev Racing’s Mackena Bell unfortunately suffered two flat tires early in the race, keeping her at the back of the pack. Bell was able to return to the track after both flat tires, however around the 60-lap marker, the sway bar on her car broke and sidelinws her for the rest of the race.
The JEGS 150 present by Germain Toyota will air on FOX Sports 1 on Sunday, July 27 at 9 a.m.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with return to action at Iowa Speedway on Aug. 1.
ABOUT REV RACING: Headquartered in Concord, N.C., Rev Racing, owned by Max Siegel, operates the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which is the industry’s leading developmental program for ethnic minorities and women drivers and drivers and pit crew members. For more information about Rev Racing visit https://revracing.net or follow us on Twitter @RevRacin.
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