There aren’t many people that decide to celebrate their eighteenth birthday in Las Vegas, Nevada, seeing as the opportunity to participate in several of the city’s well-known activities is off-limits.
Jake Garcia is the exception, as the Monroe, Georgia-native got the opportunity to contest his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on an intermediate track, having just turned 18, in Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Driving the No. 35 Chevrolet Silverado for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, Friday’s 200-mile contest marked the first race of the 2023 NASCAR Truck Series season for Garcia, who competed in five events for the organization last year.
In Friday’s practice session, Garcia hovered around the top-10 throughout the entire session, before dropping to 11th. The Rookie of The Year Contender would qualify 14th, only two spots behind his experienced teammate, Christian Eckes.
The 18-year-old put on a stealthy performance over the course of Friday’s 134-lap race, maintaining a spot inside the top-20 and keeping himself out of trouble for the majority of the event.
Garcia restarted the final stage inside the top-10, but took the lessons that he’d learned early in the race to maintain his track position and stay within striking distance of a good finish, ultimately coming home in P10.
A standout in Late Model competition, Garcia found himself racing against several accomplished drivers throughout the event, including Grant Enfinger, Matt DiBenedetto, and Matt Crafton.
The 10th-place finish for Garcia at Las Vegas is a career-best for the driver, bettering a career-best 16th in the season-finale at Phoenix Raceway.
“I’m really pleased with that,” said Garcia. “I learned a lot personally and got better and better throughout the race, just learned about the aero and how to catch people and where to do it and timing it, it’s all something I have to get used to a little more.”
The finish also continues a great start to the year for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, with the organization putting two trucks in the top-10 in both events thus far in 2023.
“I thought we did a good job, had a really good [truck] there, felt like in clean air we could run as good as anybody there, so thought we were really good there, just need a little bit out of me, but we have a fast Quanta Services Chevy Silverado RST.”