The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East heads to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday for the Pensacola 150 – an event that will mark the halfway point of a 16-race season schedule for 2014.
The race follows a year after the series made its inaugural visit to the half-mile banked oval in Florida’s panhandle.
The first half of the season has been a big challenge for Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Nick Drake, who is making the transition this year from racing open-wheel sprint cars on dirt tracks to competing in stock cars on paved tracks.
The 18-year-old from Mooresville, N.C., drives the No. 15 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing. While adapting to stock cars, Drake has also had to learn his way around each track as he makes his initial visit to venues on the circuit such as Five Flags Speedway.
He has been a quick learner, however – winning his first career pole and recording three top five and four top 10 finishes in the first seven races this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Drake is second in the Sunoco rookie standings and seventh in the overall championship standings for the series. He is coming off a 10th-place finish at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on May 31.
Drake’s best career series finish came last month at Iowa Speedway, where he took the runner-up spot in the K&N Pro Series East-West combination race. He also had a third-place finish at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, to go along with the pole award he won there. In addition to his success in the K&N East, Drake raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season opener at Phoenix International Raceway, where he finished third.
The majority of Drake’s experience on paved tracks came in his first five years of racing, when he competed in quarter midgets. He went on to race USAC Ford Focus Midgets, winning titles in 2010 and 2011. He was the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Rookie of the Year in 2012 and finished 15th in the championship standings in the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car last year.
Friday’s race at Five Flags Speedway is just part of a big weekend coming up for Drake. On Saturday morning, he will receive his diploma during the graduation ceremony for Lake Norman High School in Mooresville.