MONTGOMERY, Alabama (March 10, 2020) — Jake Garcia is a name that many are not quite familiar with just yet, but on March 7th, the Georgia native took the checkered flag, becoming the youngest driver to win the 56th Alabama 200 “Hunt for the Bear” at Montgomery Motor Speedway. He beat a talent crop of drivers that featured a mix of both young up and comers and wiley veterans.
The 15 year old, driving for his family run team, just recently got his learner’s permit… only a couple of short months after finishing second in the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida, in only his second Super Late Model start.
In 2020, Garcia has already competed at Speedfest in Cordele, Georgia and at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
In Montgomery, Garcia took everything he’s learned and put it to use to survive a wild 200 lap race and take home the biggest win of his young career.
“I was just trying to run my race and not really pay attention to what everybody else was doing,” said Garcia. “Just try to save as much as we can, that way we’ve got something for the end, you know, and just did a good job of that and I managed to come out on top.”
Garcia was fast to acknowledge the team effort behind getting big wins like the Alabama 200.
“It doesn’t just take the driver to do a good job, but it takes everybody on the crew. There’s a lot more to it that goes on behind the scenes, and all that stuff has to go right to before we can get out here and race and especially before you can get a win. So it’s just a great effort by everybody. I’ve got to thank my sponsor Arrow Creek Investments for giving me this opportunity. I also got to thank God… I was grateful to be able to get a win and be able to drive this racecar. So it’s just cool to be out here doing this and even better to get a win.”
Garcia’s path to the win didn’t come without its challenges, as the driver of the 35 spun on lap 168 coming very close to hitting Perry Patino who was running in second at the time, but was fortunate to not hit anything and was able to come to the attention of his crew for service, led by veteran crew chief, and former Snowball Derby winner, Ricky Turner.
“I was traveling a lot faster than he was,” said Garcia. “I got on the brakes there at the last second, but I couldn’t really slow it down in time, but I was just, I was rolling the corner so much faster than he was. It’s really hard to judge.”
While Perry Patino wasn’t very happy with the incident concerning Garcia, he really showed poise and power throughout the race, looming in the top five that majority of the night and even leading a number of laps before finishing solidly in second place.
“We struggled a little yesterday in our practice, just kinda finding the little odds and ends to be the car to beat,” said Patino. “I wasn’t extremely confident going into the race, but I know we had a top three car. There was a lot of strategy there, it was a lot of good racing and you know, really fun racing. Willie Allen gave me a lot of slack.”
In response to the Garcia incident, Patino made it clear that he felt there was some purposeful intentions, but focused on his team in the end.
“You know, I don’t really know what happens when you spin out on purpose and you’re still allowed to take tires, but that’s kind of a messed up deal,” he said. “But you know, it happens in racing and it’s hard to make a judgment call. But we got, we got, we had a really good car. My crew worked really hard on it and I really want to thank Rev Racing, Max Siegel, my Dad, Perry Patino Motorsports everybody that makes this possible.
From about the halfway mark on, another fresh face made his presence known toward the front of the field. Jordan MaCallum drove a smart race and positioned himself well late in the race, coming home in third.
“We were just being smart, running a clean race,” said MaCallum. “You see people wrecking, you see people trying to win the race on the first lap, and it’s not about that. It’s about the last lap. It’s that last 25 laps, pushing your car as hard as you can and a man you gotta make it to the last 25 laps before you really push your car and mainly, you gotta be smart. You just gotta outlast and make good decisions and don’t push circumstances that you shouldn’t be in.”
Jordan’s success was all the more remarkable after having overcome an injury.
“At the end of the day we ended up third’s good being back after, uh, um, arm injuries and all that about three months ago,” he said. “I mean, that’s really good for me for my first race back.”
He continued, “I fell off a ladder about three months ago and shattered my arm, I broke my wrist and fractured my pelvis and they had me down for about a month, but I’m up and getting more movement and getting more strength back in my arms, and everyday it just gets better… you gotta keep pushing.
While the the youngest podium to grace the victory circle of the Alabama 200 relished in their accomplishment, the pack of veterans that most had circle as the favorites to win found themselves reeling in a multitude of issues.
The initial start was botched by a missed shift from Willie Allen, who in turn stacked up the field and ended the day for many, before it even started. Allen would continue on and fight back to the lead for much of the second half of the race before fading back to finish in fourth.
Polesitter Justin South didn’t lead the first lap (that honor went to second place starter Hunter Wright), but he did spend some time at the front of the field before giving way to Augie Grill on lap 23. South’s night would then begin to go south after falling victim to two seperate spins on track, resulting in a 14th place finish.
Fast Qualifier Kyle Plott looked to be a contender in the middle portion of the race, taking the lead on lap 63. He too, would have his night go south in a hurry, however, as a broken trailing arm would see Plott fall from the lead on lap 67, and out of the race.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night was in Augie Grill. The Hayden, Alabama driver came into the night as the defending race winner, looking to add to his record five victories in the event. Grill was strong early, and led during the first half of the race, only to see his night fall to pieces after making contact with the wall on lap 110. That contact led to an already mishandling racecar completely going away, with Grill spinning and backing into the turn four wall, ending his night.
– Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining
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