Coming off a breakout season, Ruben Garcia Jr. is leaving no doubt about where his goals lie in 2019 when it comes to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
“We really have to aim for the championship,” Garcia told NASCAR.com. “Every season I start I really focus on improving from last year and I think that’s what we’ve done the last five years. My first year in K&N I finished 10th, then fifth, then third. So now we are looking for the championship.”
The breakout season of 2018 continued to earn Garcia attention on Thursday as he was named to the 2019 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Class for the fourth straight year. The program counts current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson, Daniel Suárez and Bubba Wallace among its distinguished alumni.
Garcia will return to the K&N East Series for 2019 with Rev Racing. The K&N East has seen Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, William Byron and Ben Rhodes take home the championship in recent years. Tyler Ankrum captured the title in 2018.
Garcia, a 23-year-old native of Mexico City, Mexico, won his second NASCAR Peak Mexico Series championship this year and earned his first two wins in the K&N East (at Memphis and Dover) — his first victories outside his home country. The win at Dover gave him a third-place finish in the K&N Pro Series East final standings.
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“Dover has been my favorite track since the very first time I drove it,” Garcia said. “It was pretty special to win there. It was the season finale and to have a good performance in front of all the Cup teams and the Xfinity teams, it was pretty good.”
Racing is in Garcia’s veins — his father competed in the NASCAR ranks — mainly in the touring series. And his father has been a big influence on his career. With three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts under his belt in 2014, the younger Garcia is no stranger to NASCAR’s national series and he knows 2019 is critical as he tries to move up the ladder.
“Everyone involved in the Drive for Diversity driver development program has done a great job of giving us all the exposure we need to move up and make it up through the ranks in NASCAR,” Garcia said. “We’re working hard to try to start running in the Trucks or Xfinity Series because that’s probably the next step. For sure, 2019 will be a pretty important year that we can find our way up into a national series.”