It has been a while since one of the most popular drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East last ran a Late Model. It’s been about “three or four years,” actually. But Kenzie Ruston is making her return this weekend at Indianapolis, Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway, the site of her first ever Super Late Model win, a win which made her the first ever female to win an ARCA/CRA Super Series feature.
Sunday, Ruston will be making her return to the ARCA/CRA Super Series at the “Fall Brawl” with her fiancé, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Daniel Hemric, as her crew chief.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” Ruston said with a laugh. “We’ve never really worked together that much. He’s helped with my Supers a little bit when I was running. But he’s never really been my full blown crew chief before, so that will be a little different.”
Hemric won’t be there on Saturday due to his own race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but he’ll be there on Sunday and talking in Ruston’s ear over the radio. Even though he won’t be there on Saturday he’ll be trying to help out just like he always has.
“I’ve tried to help her along the way since we’ve known each other,” Hemric told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Obviously now being engaged I’ll be leaning on her and she’ll be leaning on me. But I’ve got to race too. I have to race on Saturday at New Hampshire, so she’ll have her old K&N crew chief with her on Saturday. He’ll fill in and get everybody pointed in the right direction. He’s got the hard part. He’s got practice and qualifying.”
Ruston will be racing a car that Hemric owns, and that the duo recently put together. The car is one that has been sitting around for most of the year after a few races near the end of last season with current K&N East points leader William Byron behind the wheel.
“I didn’t have the means to get it back going,” Hemric told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “But she was like ‘Daniel, I haven’t been racing a whole lot. If we round up some sponsorship here and there then maybe we can make this happen.'”
“I kind of kept hinting to him that I wanted to run the Snowflake,” added Ruston. “He said, ‘Well let’s try Lucas Oil too.'”
Ruston explained that should things go well on Sunday and the car is in one piece, then the plan is to have her race the car in the Snowflake 100 on December 5 at Five Flags Speedway (FL). But first they wanted to get her seat-time, and they felt Lucas Oil was the perfect place to do it.
The half-mile oval in the shadows of the Brickyard is one of Ruston’s favorite race tracks. It’s a place where she’s seen success. Her first ever Super Late Model win came at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2011 in an ARCA/CRA Super Series race. Her fiancé finished third in that race.
Ruston isn’t necessarily expecting to win in a Super Late Model in her first time out in a few years. However, she does expect to be running up near the front as lap 100 approaches.
“I haven’t been able to contend for a win this year,” she said. “I just really want to have a fighting chance this weekend. Mine and Daniel’s expectations are high, but if we’re not fighting for a win I’ll be disappointed.”
Ruston and Hemric were at Lucas Oil on Monday all day long turning practice laps to get Ruston comfortable in the car again ahead of Sunday’s race. Ruston said she forgot just how responsive a Super Late Model is compared to the heavier stock car that she runs normally.
“The first time out I felt like a dart without feathers, really,” she said with a laugh. “The steering wheel is so much more responsive. It’s almost like a go-kart. I came in and was like ‘I feel like I’m all over the place!’ But by the end of the second run on Monday I felt more comfortable. But I think this weekend is going to be fun. I felt like we had pretty good speed, but we’ll see.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com phot0