Kenzie Ruston started off 2016 Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco season with high expectations after making her return to the Super Late Model ranks. After a stint in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, she united with the Carswell Motorsports no. 98 team. Success was hard to come by in the first three races, but since the end of May things have picked up. The young female has recorded two top-five finishes in the last three races, including a season high of fourth at South Alabama Speedway in Opp just a couple weeks ago.
The recent string of strong finishes has breathed extra enthusiasm into Ruston as she looks forward to Friday’s (July 22) 125-lap race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL.
“The last couple of weeks have been pretty good,” said a relieved Ruston. “We got off to a little rough start, but it’s just getting used to everybody, getting used to the car and all that. We had a good finish at Opp and we had a good finish at Cordele. We were really excited for a fourth down there in Opp because at the beginning of the year we weren’t so hot down there.”
Not only has it been an adjustment for Ruston to working with the Carswell team, but it has been an equally big adjustment for the Carswell team to how Ruston likes her race car. The team has had Ruston’s fiancé and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Daniel Hemric and Ross Kenseth behind the wheel last year.
“We needed to be up to speed a little bit faster, but that’s part of the learning curve. We struggled a little bit; we had to change quite a few things between Daniel and I; our driving style is different. I feel like we got a pretty good handle on it now and that we’re getting right into the swing of things.”
The other big adjustment for Ruston this season is re-learning how to drive the Super Late Model after spending the past three years primarily driving the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
“I feel like the team has gotten better and I feel like I’m getting a little better back in the Super (Late Model) after running the big heavy stock cars. It was kind of a bigger change than I thought (it would be) and I had to get used to a Super again. It was a little bit of a challenge for me, just learning how to have the car at the beginning of the race and how much it changes at the end of the race. Honestly, that’s the big thing I struggled with the first couple of races and now we’re gaining a lot of ground.”
Next up for the SSS is the third stop at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL this Friday night, July 22nd. It’s the same venue Ruston and the No. 98 team began to find momentum at back in May. Five Flags Speedway also produces some of the stiffest competition and Ruston feels that’s why they need to use the event as a measuring stick against the rest of the competition.
“I really like running at Pensacola; Daniel’s always run good at Pensacola, so I’m excited to get back down there,” said the Oklahoma native. “The first time we ran there it was a bit of a struggle and then the second time we ran top ten and it was a stacked field. We had 36 cars there. It was crazy; just like a (Snowball) Derby show. Hopefully we can capitalize on that momentum going back there and run even better.”
Ruston is fourth in the SSS standings heading into Friday night and just four points behind Chris Davidson for third with four races remaining in the 2016 season for the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco.
On Thursday, July 21st, Five Flags Speedway is holding an optional practice day for all teams from 5 - 9pm.
On raceday, Friday, July 22nd, pit gates open at 1pm, with practice for all Super Late Model teams from 3:30pm - 5pm. Qualifying begins shortly after 7pm. Feature racing, including Pro Trucks, Bombers and Sportsman divisions, begins at 8pm. The Southern Super Series 125-lap race will be the third feature on the racing card.
For more information regarding the series, visit its website at southernsuperseries.com.
-Southern Super Series Press Release
-Photo Credit: Bruce Nuttleman