Monday, April 8, 2013

Ruston Making History With Early-Season Success

Kenzie Ruston is third in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points after two races.
Getty Images for NASCAR

That Brett Moffitt and Dylan Kwasniewski sit 1-2 in championship points two races into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season is not exactly a surprise. Moffitt has been in contention for the last two East titles and Kwasniewski is coming off a West championship.

But the driver in third place, Kenzie Ruston, is a surprise, even to herself. Not the success, per se, but that it’s come so quickly for the 21-year-old from El Reno, Okla., who is coming off a history-making finish.

“We’re definitely here to run for the championship,” said Ruston, who is nine points behind Moffitt and one ahead of Greenville race winner Brandon Gdovic. “And we really have high hopes to be there at the end of the year – to be a championship contender and rookie of the year contender.

“I’m very, very shocked, I guess, because I didn’t think it would come this early.”

Ruston and the rest of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East are headed to Florida this weekend for the inaugural NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. Saturday night’s race will be the series’ first visit to the banked, half-mile asphalt oval.

Ruston became the highest finishing female in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history with her third-place finish last Saturday. She eclipsed the mark set by Danica Patrick with her sixth-place run at Dover in 2010.

Driving for Turner Scott Motorsports, Ruston qualified 17th at Greenville but gradually worked her way up on the flat half-mile. In the season opener at Bristol, she qualified 29th but was able to make it to up to 11th by the checkered flag.

"Qualifying has never been my strength and coming into the new cars, we've qualified a lot worse than we wanted," Ruston said. "It really has kind of helped. I've been able to get back there and ride and learn and save tires to be there at the end.

“We've been working hard and my crew chief (Rich Burgdoff) has worked hard with me. I'm mostly there every day at the shop working hard and trying to learn as much as I can about these cars so I can do the best I can for them.”

Ruston has previous experience at Five Flags, both running several crate Late Models there as well as competing in the annual late-season Snowball Derby weekend. She finished 10th in the Snowflake 100 in 2010.

“I love the place,” Ruston said. “It’s a lot of banking. It’s just a fast little race track. It’s almost like you never stop turning.”

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