Sergio Pena burst on to the NASCAR scene in January by nearly winning the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale in California. He finished second to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano.
Sergio Pena prepares for NASCAR K&N Pro Series on May 23 at Iowa Speedway
Since then, Pena's had a bit of a rough start to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. After two races, he has yet to crack the top 10, is 20th in the East Series standings and searching for a way to turn his season around.
"It was great to come out here and run good, but it's tough to follow up that race," the 17-year-old Pena said about the Showdown. "It was a perfect weekend, really. It's going to be tough. You have those bad breaks, and unfortunately, I've had two of them in a row."
Pena will have plenty of time to prepare for his next East Series race. Iowa Speedway will host a combined NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West race on May 23. That gives him nearly six weeks between East Series races.
"We're back in the shop working harder than ever, trying to get these cars ready to go out to Iowa," Pena said. "We'll see how it goes. I'm not trying to come down on myself too hard. I know that the championship and the points aren't looking too good. We have to stay focused and look ahead."
Part of his preparation will be running late models at tracks on both coasts. He returned to Irwindale to race a NASCAR Super Late Model car for Luis Martinez on April 10. He is planning on racing late models near his Revolution Racing team headquarters in North Carolina.
"It's never good to have a long break in between races. We're going to try and do as much testing as we can," said Pena, who calls Winchester, Va., home. "We ran go-karts for Luis Martinez a couple years back. After running the Showdown, he gave me the opportunity to come out and run the Super Late Model here (at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale). I'm really excited. I couldn't turn it down. I love this track. This is like my favorite track. It's nice to be back out here. It feels like home to me."
Pena finished third in the Super Late Model race at Irwindale. It was his best finish in any race since his runner-up result in the Showdown.
Pena opened the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season by finishing 27th at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.
"Greenville was tough," Pena said. "It was real tight throughout the whole day then loose coming off. Later on in the race we got hit from behind and got put in the wall, so we didn't end up finishing that race."
He finished 14th in the second East Series race of the season at South Boston Speedway in Virginia.
"At South Boston, same deal," Pena said. "We just couldn't get the setup down. Problems with the setup and trying to get this car going. It's been a little bit frustrating these past two weeks."
Pena is one of 16 rookies racing in the East Series this year. Two rookies have won the first two races of the East Series season. Darrell Wallace Jr. won the season opener at Greenville Pickens. Max Gresham won the race at South Boston.
"I would definitely like to win not only rookie of the year, but the championship," Pena said. "Right now the championship looks a little bit tough, but we're still going to try our best to get it. There's tons of rookies this year, I think more than there's ever has been. It's going to be tough to win rookie of the year. Our goal is to win it all."
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