Sergio Pena, driving for Revolution Racing and the Drive for Diversity program, made the most of his first start at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California this weekend.
He arrived at the speedway to begin a two-step process that would give him the opportunity to race in the Toyota All Star Showdown.
First he had to earn his way into the event by competing in a qualifying race with his three teammates Thursday evening. He won easily making him eligible to qualify for the Showdown.
The next step for the 16-year-old rookie from Virginia came on Friday when he would have to qualify for the chance to compete. He not only qualified but surprised everyone with an outstanding run, capturing the pole position. Joey Logano, 2009 Sprint Cup driver rookie of the year, qualified in second spot.
Saturday night the race began with Pena leading the first lap. Throughout the race the two drivers battled side by side, swapping the lead. Pena drove an almost flawless race keeping fans on the edge of their seats.
Pena raced with a competitiveness and confidence well beyond his years. However, his inexperience showed on restarts and the veteran Logano used it to his advantage, winning the race while Pena finished second.
In Victory Lane, the reporters gathered around Logano but all anyone wanted to talk about was Pena.
After the race, Logano gave his impression of the rookie driver.
“Initially on the restarts, it was easy to beat Pena and I didn’t have to do nothing,” Logano said. “But as I kept going I had to pull out all my tricks and try to find a little bit here and there to get him on the restarts.”
Pena’s second place finish is even more amazing when you consider the fact that most of his previous racing experience has been in the karting and open wheel arenas. His background also includes racing late models where he won six races in his first year as well as receiving the Rookie of the Year award at Shenandoah Speedway in Virginia.
His career in stock career racing was jump started when he participated in the Drive for Diversity Combine in October 2009. His performance earned him the opportunity to be invited back for further testing under the newly formed Revolution Racing banner later in the year.
After this weekend, the young rookie has undoubtedly taken a huge leap forward in his stock car racing career and captured the attention of the NASCAR community.
“This has been a dream come true, this whole weekend,” Pena said. “I’m going to carry this over for the rest of the season and for more seasons to come. This is a good beginning and I just hope it doesn’t slow down at all.”
“Taking second place from Joey Logano is good for me any day.”