Those who live on the West Coast call it the “Best Coast,” and for good reason. Many of the best stock car racers we’ve ever seen have hailed from the left side of the United States. But in order to take the next step up the racing ladder those drivers often have to move to the East Coast. That’s exactly what Washington native Nicole Behar is doing in 2016 as she prepares for a full season of Super Late Model racing with David Gilliland Racing.
Behar will kick off her 2016 racing season at the CARS Tour season opener on Sunday, April 3 at Southern National Motorsports Park. In addition to touring the Southeast region with the team’s Super Late Model, she will also be looking to put in some Stock Car time after competing in the NASCAR K&N West Series in 2015.
“This year we’re going to mainly focus on the CARS Tour,” said Behar. “We will do some PASS races, a few K&N, and maybe ARCA. I’m going to do as much racing as possible.”
The increased amount of opportunities is much of the reason why Behar is making the trip from the West Coast to the East Coast. She wants to get as much seat time as possible during the upcoming season.
“Moving from Spokane, Washington to Mooresville, North Carolina is (a move made) to hit as many races as possible,” explained Behar. “The racing season is longer, too. I’ll get an extra month to race.”
The second motivating factor is the chance to team up with one of the most successful short track operations in the Southeast. Even with all the progress made out of the family shop, Behar knows that there is more to be gained racing for a well-established team like David Gilliland Racing.
“I’ve always raced for a family-owned team from go-karts all the way up to K&N, now I’m stepping into someone else’s hands,” she said. “I think working with David and his guys, they have a lot of experience. I’ve excelled to my parent’s level with my family-owned team. Like David has taught me already, it’s not necessarily everything on the track, but everything in between that you might not learn back at home. Being on the East Coast, we are a little bit more accessible to all the knowledge.”
Behar brings over an impressive list of accolades reaching back the past 10 years. These include multiple rookie and championship titles in the Spokane Kart Racing Association from 2007 through 2010. In 2011, she moved to Stateline Speedway in Idaho and won back to back Baby Grand championship. During the 2012 season she also ran Late Models at Stateline, capturing Rookie of the Year honors. Behar followed that up by winning the Late Model championship and being welcomed into the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in 2013.
Behar made her K&N Pro West debut in 2014 at Stateline, posting an impressive sixth-place finish. One year ago, she tackled the full K&N Pro Series West schedule, earning a career high second-place finish at Irwindale Speedway (CA). She was also introduced as a member of the 2015 NASCAR Next class.
With the CARS Tour season set to begin this Sunday, April 3, Behar is one to keep an eye on, especially with her belief in herself and the team she is with.
“It gives me a lot of confidence knowing they have a winning background. I hope we can step up and do the same thing.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, LI, MA) – Twitter: @ Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR