It didn't take long for Kenzie Ruston to make her mark on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. With her third-place finish at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, the second race of the season, Ruston became the highest-finishing female driver in the 26-year history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East racer Kenzie Ruston
She added two more top fives in the first seven races of the season and is in contention for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rookie of the year.
The 21-year-old from Reno, Okla., is not only becoming the most celebrated women driver in series history, but one of the more respected drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
"At the start of the year, maybe because I didn't expect to be right off the bat to be competitive running top five and top 10, to be running with the guys and earning respect and showing them a girl can do this," Ruston said. "We belong here too, as much they do. I'm dedicated to this just like they are."
She said when the season started her team set a goal to win the rookie of the year. The team also wanted to be in the top 10 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings.
Ruston is in eighth place in the East Series standings and has reset her goals. She wants to be a top-three driver by the end of the season.
Her breakthrough performance at Greenville Pickens Speedway started a string of record-breaking races for Ruston. Even though she posted an impressive finish at Greenville Pickens, she said it could have been better.
"It was quite crazy," Ruston said. "Everybody was so excited and I was so disappointed because I thought we had a little bit better car than third. I thought we were second or could have even gone for the win that day. Top three in my second race is beyond crazy."
She had to rally through the field for her third-place finish at Greenville Pickens. She didn't qualify well and started the race in 17th in a field of 26 drivers.
"We were close there at the end," Ruston said. "We worked and worked and worked and worked in practice to get our race set-up good. We didn't focus that much in qualifying. I definitely have to get better in qualifying so we don't have to start far back and burn our stuff up."
She followed her third-place finish at Greenville Pickens with a fourth-place finish at Five Flags Speedway in Florida. Fellow rookie Mackenna Bell finished fifth in the next NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Richmond International Raceway. It marked the first time in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history that female drivers finished in the top five in three races in a row.
"I think us rookies can run pretty well," Ruston said. "I think we're just trying to learn from the veterans. Hopefully next year be just as competitive and run for the championship."
Ruston returned to the top five in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina. She finished fourth. Bell was sixth making it the first time in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history that two female drivers finished in the top 10 in the same race.
Ruston is in second place in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rookie of the year standings. She is one point behind Gray Gaulding with eight races remaining.
The next race on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule is at Columbus Motor Speedway in July 13.