The first time 17-year-old Sergio Pena visited Toyota Speedway of Irwindale, he made headlines after he and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Joey Logano raged an all-out war when both drivers led all 225-laps during the Toyota All-Star Showdown back in January.
Pena, who had never driven a K&N Pro Series racecar before, made it look easy after he took the pole, then proceeded to exchange the lead with Logano five times to lead 54 laps of his own finishing second behind NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year.
Pena, who is competing as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program, visited the speedway for the third time this past weekend while making his third and fourth start behind the wheel of the No. 03 Position-One Motorsports Chevrolet.
In the first race of the twin 40-lap Pepsi Super Late Model events, Pena, who qualified fifth, got spun by the No. 54 driven by Joe Farre, which resulted in the first caution of the night.
Pena thought, “When I got spun I thought I was going to the back, so I was bummed and thought I would ride back here and save my stuff. Fortunately the officials let me go back to the front.”
Pena moved up as high as third as the race progressed, and after a late race restart on lap 35, he and Jason Patison battled back and forth for the spot with Patison eventually crossing the finish line in third with Pena close behind in fourth.
“I really had fun, I had a good battle with Jason Patison. It was definitely an intense one,” said Pena who flew in on Friday from Catharpin, Virginia to compete in Saturday's nights.
Pena also added that, "I have a lot of fun with the competitors, they battle hard They don’t give you any room and that makes it fun getting close to each other and rubbing doors.”
Even though the night belonged to points leader Justin Johnson, who won both 40 lap races, Pena did not disappoint the fans when he rolled off next to pole sitter Johnson for the second 40 lap race.
Pena, who would eventually finish the race in third, went on to say that, “In between the races we made an adjustment we had a hard time turning to the bottom so we freed it up for the second race. The competition is really aggressive, but they are also clean at the same time.”
Pena also added that, “Most tracks there is a lot of frustration and stress built up. This track is more laid back and it makes for better racing experience.
“The people that are here Jim Williams and Bob DeFazio run this track so well. Everything is clean, and the people are friendly. This is my favorite track by far.”
With that said, some of NASCAR’s best-kept secrets are not always found within the confines of a Sprint cup garage, or for that matter in the Nationwide or the Camping World truck series.
Instead, some of motorsport's best racing is usually found at a local short track and with its first race in 1999, Toyota Speedway of Irwindale has not disappointed the many fans who have stepped through the gates each Saturday night throughout the racing season.
Pena is just one of many young, up-and-coming drivers who are hoping someday to become the next Dale Earnhardt or Richard Petty, and it all starts here right in our own backyards.
Pena, who is only 17 years old, said that, “Once I turn 18 hopefully I could move up to the Nationwide or Truck series. Jim Williams got me to talk to Penske racing and had a meeting with MWR a couple months ago.”
Until then, Pena will continue to compete as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program, where he is currently driving a K&N Pro series East car for Revolution Racing.
“I love coming out to Irwindale, it feels like home, and I really have to thank Luis Martinez for letting me drive his car.”
Since its inception back in 2002, Position One Motorsports began the long and arduous task of establishing a strong reputation in the motorsports world. Position One began building its foundation with go-kart.
In 2008, Position One Motorsports did a 180° and entered the Whelen All American NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at Southern California’s Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, with Luis Martinez Jr. driving the No. 03 KING TACO powered Chevrolet.
In 2009, Position One continued competing in the Whelen All-American NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
Also driving for Position-One Motorsports was Mackena Bell, in the No. 30 Drive for Diversity NGK Chevy Super Late Model. Both Martinez and Bell finished the season strong with one win and a few podiums between both drivers.
Position One Motorsports also claimed the inaugural Langer’s S2 Division with Randel King as their primary driver, with seven out of eight victories.
Randel King is currently sitting third in points in the Pepsi Super Late model division, with teammate Luis Martinez Jr. sitting in 13th place with only five out of 16 starts.