Many second generation drivers have tried to follow in the footsteps of their NASCAR dads over the past couple years. Almost all have gone through the K&N Pro Series East.
Drivers like Corey LaJoie, Brandon McReynolds, and of course the defending NASCAR XFinity Series champion Chase Elliott have gone through the East Series. Come Sunday night at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) we can add Jared Irvan's name to that list.
Irvan, who just turned 17 on February 9, is the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Ernie Irvan. The second generation driver will be making his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut in the season opener on Sunday.
"About halfway through last year we bought two K&N cars and just came up with a plan to run at least a couple races this year," Irvan told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. "I'm really excited. It's the next step in my racing career."
In a way, it's almost as if Irvan's young racing career has already come full circle. Irvan started his racing career with the Finish Line Driving School at New Smyrna Speedway on the quarter-midget track inside turn one.
"It was actually the first track I ever ran on," he said.
Irvan has never raced at New Smyrna, aside from those laps he's logged on the small track in the infield. Fortunately for Irvan, he seems to quickly adapt to new race tracks.
"Usually it may take one practice session," he said. "I feel like that's one of my good attributes."
Unlike many drivers his age, Irvan doesn't do the whole sim racing thing. Many drivers use games like iRacing to get some laps at a track before they get there in real life in an effort to cut down on the adjustment period.
"I feel like that kind of hurts a little bit because it can give you some bad habits," he said. "It can make you feel like something is right when it's really not for that track."
Not only does Irvan have to get used to the race track, but he also has to get used to the car. He has yet to test anywhere in a K&N car, so his first laps at New Smyrna Speedway will also be his first laps in this style of race car.
"I've never even sat in it while it's running," Irvan said. "It'll be a great learning experience."
Irvan said the plan is to take the K&N season one step at a time, unless sponsorship comes along. He plans to race the first two events of the season at New Smyrna and at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC), and if all goes well there, then they'll head to Bristol Motor Speedway (TN).
"After that, we'll be looking for some sponsorship," he said.
But right now he's focused on Sunday's 150-lap race at the fast New Smyrna half-mile. His goal isn't to win the race. While that is certainly possible, Irvan has set a more realistic goal for Sunday's race.
"Basically if I finish in the top 10 then that would be a good finish for me and for my first run in that series," he said. "It's the first race and where a lot of the major people in NASCAR will be. There will be a lot of eyes on this race."
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Jared Irvan Facebook