NKNPS: Inspired by his countryman, Ruben Garcia Jr. takes next step in racing

Ruben Garcia Jr. couldn’t have asked for a better role model.

As he embarks on the next major step in his NASCAR racing career, a move up to the K&N Pro Series East with Rev Racing, Garcia can look for inspiration to a fellow Mexican driver — Daniel Suárez — whose early career arc mirrors his own.

“He’s an example that, if you do the things you need to do in the right moment, with the right people, you can keep going and keep looking for your dream,” said Garcia, one of six members of the 2016 NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver class announced on Friday.

“He’s doing such an amazing job in the XFINITY and (Camping World) Truck Series. “I’m sure it’s going to be even better for him. That’s motivation for me and the other young drivers who want to climb the (NASCAR) tree.”

Suárez posted 28 top 10s in the two series combined, and Garcia, at 20 the youngest-ever NASCAR Mexico Series champion, would like nothing better than to follow Suárez’ example.

His father, Ruben Garcia Sr., also is a gifted racer. The elder Garcia finished second in the NASCAR Mexico Series’ final standings in 2006, the last year before NASCAR began its sanction. So it’s no surprise that Garcia Jr. was attuned to racing from his earliest days.

“Since I remember, when I was really young — not just as a driver but as a fan — I always enjoyed watching races on the TV, especially NASCAR,” Garcia said. “I enjoy watching almost all types of races, but NASCAR was the one that was of the most interest to me.

“I started racing go-karts, and then I started racing small touring cars, which I enjoyed even more than racing go-karts.”

At age 14, Garcia raced a stock car on an oval for the first time and was hooked.

“I had such a great time that I decided I was going to work and look for bigger goals in the NASCAR series,” he said.

Rev Racing, which supports the efforts of the diversity drivers, will field four entries in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Collin Cabre, winner of last year’s season finale at Dover International Speedway, will be back for another year in K&N.

Cabre, however, gets plenty of competition from his teammates. Jairo Avila, a 20-year-old Colombian-American from Alhambra, California, posted four top 10s in five K&N Pro Series West starts for his family-owned team last season.

Ali Kern, 22, from Fremont, Ohio, is the latest female driver to join D4D and brings impressive credentials, having won 2013 rookie of the year while finishing second in the final standings in the ARCA/CRA Super Series.

The 2016 D4D class also includes Enrique Baca, 24, from Monterrey, Mexico and Juan Garcia, 18, originally from Bogota, Colombia, both of whom had strong D4D Combine performances and will compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Garcia made a strong impression in the series last year, earning the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award.

For all six drivers, selection to the D4D program represents a major career opportunity.

“To me, it’s such an honor to represent Rev Racing and to race for NASCAR’s Drive For Diversity program,” Garcia said. “It’s the biggest opportunity I have in my life right now to go and search for my goals and one day climb to the highest level in one of the NASCAR Series.”