Venturing into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for the first time, Friday’s Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway marked a number of new experiences for Jake Drew, the defending champion of the ARCA Menards Series West.
Making his NASCAR National Series debut at the 1.33-mile facility, Drew was afforded a 20-minute practice session to shake down his No. 66 Capstone Green Energy Ford F-150 while also attempting to absorb as much information as humanly possible.
On his sixth trip around the track, Drew posted a lap of 30.716 seconds, which by the end of the session would place him just inside the top-10, an impressive feat for any driver making their first laps in a truck.
The qualifying attempt for the 23-year-old driver didn’t net the same level of success, despite picking up nearly two-tenths from his practice time. That lap of 30.567 seconds, was only good enough for 24th.
When the 200-mile contest began, Drew would quickly make his way into contention for a spot inside the top-20, before gradually climbing into the top-15 by the start of the race’s second stage – where he would run for the remainder of the evening.
Over the course of the event, the Fullerton, California native slowly moved his way towards the top of the scoring pylon, advancing as high as seventh place as the race approached its final 50 laps.
Though, the defining moment for Drew came under the final caution of the event, which came inside the final 10 laps when crew chief Bud Haefele made the call to bring the No. 66 Ford F-150 to pit road, from a spot inside the top-10.
A slow pit stop, recorded at 22.7892 seconds per NASCAR data, coupled with the decision to change four tires, placed Drew as one of the last trucks on the lead lap for the restart, which came with only three laps to go.
Despite a major lack of experience, Drew was able to maneuver through some of the mid-field traffic late in the event, climbing four spots to earn a respectable 12th-place finish in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut.
“I feel pretty happy with how I did, for sure,” Drew said after the race. “That last restart, I think maybe we should have went to the bottom; that’s where we were making up a lot of ground on restarts all night long. Was just kind of stuck in traffic there and was waiting for a hole that wasn’t really coming as soon as we wanted it, but once it came – I don’t know how many spots we gained the last couple laps, or the last lap I should say.”
“Super happy with everyone’s support, helping me out, ThorSport, Capstone, everybody did an awesome job guiding me through everything and just happy to have learned all night long and brought it home and finish all the laps like I planned.”
As of now, Friday’s event at Nashville Superspeedway was the only start that Drew has planned in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but the ARCA Menards Series champion is hopeful that he’ll have more opportunities down the line.
“I sure hope so,” Drew said. “I would love to get back in the seat some more, but I’m just going to live off this high for a while and learn off of it, so that whenever that next opportunity comes I’m more prepared.”