Ryan Gifford, a member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative who won for the first time on the K&N Pro Series earlier this season, will step up in class and make his national debut when he competes in next month’s Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway for Richard Childress Racing.
The 23-year-old native of Winchester, Tenn., will pilot the No. 33 car backed by Menards and Rheem in the Aug. 3 event. In his fourth full season in the K&N Pro Series East, Gifford scored his first victory in April at Richmond. He also works in the shop and drives for Team Dillon Racing, the dirt late model program that spawned Austin and Ty Dillon and is located at the RCR complex in Welcome, N.C.
“I’m thrilled that Menards and RCR are giving me the chance to race in my first Nationwide Series event,” Gifford said. “Menards has done so much for young racers over the years, and I’m proud to be able to represent them and their employees at Iowa Speedway. I can’t thank them enough for believing in me and giving me an opportunity to showcase my racing skills.”
Gifford became the first African-American driver in Pro Series East history to earn a pole position when he competed in the circuit’s inaugural race at Martinsville Speedway in 2010. Last month at Iowa Speedway, the current Rev Racing driver was announced as a member of the 2013 NASCAR Next class, an industry initiative to help spotlight NASCAR’s rising stars.
Gifford started racing go-karts at age 8, and competed in the World Karting Association from 2000-2004 before moving to dirt late models in 2005. It didn’t take long for Gifford to find success on dirt, earning three poles and four top-five finishes in his first season. Gifford made his debut for RCR in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2009 competing in four events. Since then, he has earned one win, one pole award, 15 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in just 48 starts.
“I have watched how hard Ryan has worked at the Team Dillon Racing shop and what he’s been doing on the track the past few years,” Childress said. “He had some good finishes racing in the K&N Series races for RCR a few years ago. I watched him race and win dirt track races with TDR, and I’ve always been impressed with a driver’s ability to race on dirt.”
Gifford will become the eighth different driver this season to pilot RCR’s No. 33 Nationwide car, which is overseen by crew chief Ernie Cope. Tony Stewart drove it to victory in the season opener at Daytona, and since then Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, Max Papis, Paul Menard, Dakoda Armstrong and Matt Crafton have taken turns behind the wheel. Crafton, who finished third at Kentucky, is driving the vehicle Sunday at Chicagoland.
But next month at Iowa, it will belong to Gifford. “This is a great opportunity for him to get in one of our Nationwide cars and be very competitive at Iowa,” Childress said.
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