NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series newcomer Nick Sanchez has already turned heads in just five starts of the 2023 season.
Sanchez won the 2022 ARCA Menards Series championship with Rev Racing, and the team has moved up to the Truck Series with an alliance to Kyle Busch Motorsports.
The new team has shown speed right out of the gate, and that’s apparent when looking at Sanchez’s results in qualifying. With the exception of Atlanta Motor Speedway where qualifying was rained out, Sanchez has recorded a top-five start in every race, a number that includes two poles at Daytona International Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.
Sanchez has had nothing but praise for Rev and the equipment it has provided.
“Really fast trucks,” Sanchez said. “That’s about the only thing I can credit [qualifying] to, you know, my team. Obviously in these truck qualifying sessions at some of the big tracks, it’s wide open. I mean, it’s all down to the handling of the truck, so I just hold it to the floor and the truck does the rest.
“And I think that’s just a testament to the speed. The speed and equipment the team brings for me every weekend.”
The speed has shown up in multiple races, including the third race of the season at Atlanta. Sanchez was the leader heading into the final restart of the race, but he had to settle for second place after Christian Eckes got by in overtime.
While disappointing, Sanchez viewed the ending as a learning experience.
“I look back at [the finish] and I just tried to pick the things that I could have done better as a driver,” Sanchez said. “Certain situations that you always say you could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, but I like to look back at it and see what I could’ve done different and just learn from that.
And after two poor finishes to start off the year, a runner-up at Atlanta was an impressive rebound, especially when considering the challenges the team battled throughout the day.
“We had qualifying rained out and started 30th,” Sanchez said. “Someone hit us on pit road, someone hit us on the track [and] knocked the battery off, [had to] shut off and restart, like all those things … my team never missed a beat.
“Those are the days it’s impressive for a team … [and] it kind of helped me mentally as a driver, you know. Not over until it’s over.”
And through Rev’s alliance with KBM, Sanchez has also received help and mentorship through Kyle Busch.
“[Kyle’s] been huge,” Sanchez said. “He’s helped me in many ways, obviously. [He’s part of] all our post-race meetings. He’s part of the times he drives the No. 51 truck, getting to listen to his feedback. …
“He really breaks down the truck to a new level from anything I’ve ever been a part of. So, that’s helping me, as a driver, build my lingo and build my notebook on what I’m looking for in the truck.”
During his time in ARCA, Sanchez won four races, which included three on the intermediate tracks of Kansas Speedway (twice) and Michigan International Speedway. But despite his success on those tracks last season, Sanchez doesn’t view them as a strength; he views all tracks as a strength.
“I feel like our mile and a half program in the ARCA stuff was much better than our short track stuff,” Sanchez said. “So, those tracks I knew I had more of an opportunity to go into, but for me, including Texas, I look at the next 19 races all as opportunities to win, whether it be on a mile and a half, short track, dirt [track] or road course.
“Whatever it is, I think we should have winning speed in the truck everywhere we go. I’m going to hold myself to that standard no matter where we go.”
Sanchez has set his expectations high for his rookie season, but it’s the ultimate expectation that every team and driver has at the track each weekend: to win.
“Going into the year, I told my team: I want to be in contention to win every race,” Sanchez said. “I believe I told Bob [Pockrass] that at media day. Some people may look at me and be like, ‘that’s kind of silly.’ But, you know, that’s what I shoot for.”
And at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday (April 1), that expectation nearly turned into reality.
Sanchez started on the pole and was in control for just about the entire day, as he led 168 of the 172 laps. But unfortunately for him and the No. 2 team, the last lap was one of the four he didn’t lead, as he was swept up in a crash on the final lap while battling for the win with Zane Smith, Eckes and Carson Hocevar.
The loss would be a tough pill to swallow for anyone, but Sanchez also took the time to praise his team for the performance they put up. And just like Atlanta, he said that the ending of the race will be learning experience going forward.
After leading more than 97% of the laps at Texas, Sanchez’s first Truck win now looks to be a matter of when and not if. And just as he said regarding his second-place finish at Atlanta:
“Almost having it and not having it makes you want it that much more.”
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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