Often times, in the world of auto racing, drivers follow a natural progression on their way to the top. In NASCAR, it usually starts at the local short track, moving from Legends to Late Models, and eventually to the touring K&N Pro Series before arriving at the track for one of the Big 3 events. In Open Wheel cars, the progression starts in karting, moves to sprint cars, and then into formula cars and eventually one of several minor league divisions utilizing indy-like cars.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Racer Cole Cabrera
Cole Cabrera's #53 Stock Car
But, while most of the drivers who race at a premier level have graduated from a traditional development line, some drivers take extreme approaches. Some times it works, some times it fails, but at least they tried something different. For Cole Cabrera, it appears to be working. The California kid has never stayed in a series for more than two years, yet finds his name listed amongst the most intriguing stock car prospects on the west coast.
At 14, he captured his first win in the ASA Truck Series (only the second 14-year-old to do so) in just his second series start. At 16, he jumped head first into the three elite stock car classes on the west coast. First, he debuted his K&N Pro Series car at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, shocking the likes of Steven Wallace, Eric Holmes, Jason Bowles and other veterans of the NASCAR world by racing his way into the main event in the last chance qualifier.
Cole Cabrera won his first Super Late Model race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Bullring
Then, less than a month ago, he grabbed headlines again, winning in his first ever Super Late Model start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Bullring.
Did it surprise him? Of course not.
"I hope this doesn't sound conceited, but I believe I can win every time I race," said the 16-year-old. "It's the edge I think I need to perform at this level. The competition is so tough, sometimes I look around at the track and think 'Wow! There's twenty teams that could win this race.'"
Cabrera has fallen on harder times in the last month. Although he has had Top-5 cars on the speed charts during a Super Late race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale and both SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour races so far, Cabrera has zero quality finishes to show, running into a myriad of problems not of his doing. Still, Cabrera is not worried.
"We have worked really hard to get me where I'm at. It's not by luck. We test a lot and my crew chief Mike Munoz is always building the next fast setup. I work hard to understand racecars and that gives me an advantage. I try to take an intelligent approach to my racing," Cabrera added.
Intelligent might best describe Cabrera's approach at Las Vegas, when he used patience to work track stalwart Alex Haas, finally making a pass with 5 laps to go.
"It felt great. It always does win you beat the best. I've raced against older, stronger talent my whole life. The saying 'You're only as good as your competition' is a favorite of mine. I never underestimate my competitors, so that makes beating them all the better."
Cabrera, who started his racing career on dirt, first on quads, then motorcycles, and finally in Sprint Cars before moving to the pavement in a INEX Legend car, ranked his win at LVMS just ahead of his experience at the Showdown, but only because he "really likes winning."
"I think I could have won the Showdown, but we really didn't show up with good enough equipment. But it was a great learning experience."
Cabrera will compete for the SRL Championship full time this season. The series returns to Las Vegas in May. The SRL already visited The Bullring, and Cabrera got everyone's attention at a track he now feels very comfortable at, making him a popular pick to be the next first-time winner in the Southwest Tour. The team will also continue running the Super Late at The Bullring, Toyota Speedway, Orange Show Speedway, and Cabrera will make a few more starts in the K&N Pro Series as 2011 advances into the summer.
When asked about K&N's products, Cabrera lit up. "I grew up with K&N, it's all I know! Everything else is an imitation to me. K&N Filters are in everything we have, from our racecars, to our personal cars, and even our toys. I'm all about my equipment being the best, and you can't have that without K&N."
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