WINCHESTER, VA – Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America photo – Sergio Pena’s aggravating and persistent winless drought – which lasted 1013 days – ended last weekend at Columbus Motor Speedway when the Rev Racing driver surged into Victory Lane, notching his first triumph in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East since 2011 at Greenville Pickens Speedway.
NASCAR NEXT alumni Pena talked with us after the win and from his first words it was obvious the Winchester, Virginia driver was pumped and speechless about his return to the spotlight.
“It was an awesome weekend,” Pena recalled on Tuesday afternoon. “I haven’t won since 2011 (at Greenville Pickens Speedway) when I was with Rev Racing previously. To be back in victory lane with Rev Racing and the No. 4 car is indescribable really. The race was a battle, but we had a lot of fun. Just an awesome weekend.”
Pena’s No. 4 soared to the lead with a gutsy three-wide maneuver around Cameron Hayley and former Camping World Truck Series driver Ross Chastain.
“Earlier in the race we had fallen to 10th or 12th and I thought our hopes of winning were over,” Pena stated. “Ben Rhodes and I hooked up and he was picking them off, so I just followed him. I got to restart third with like 50 laps to go. I figured I had to go for it then. I didn’t know we were three-wide, someone told me that after the race. It was me, Cameron and Ross going three-wide through Turn 3 and 4.”
That wasn’t the final obstacle that Pena overcame to end the drought though.
With 10 laps remaining Pena’s torrent pace was slowed when the caution was thrown for debris, allowing the field to tighten again – and since the caution was extended when more debris was discovered – set up a green white checkered shootout.
Pena understood that the short run was what he need to conclude the performance due to Hayley’s dominance on the long green flag runs.
“I was nervous on the green white checkered restart,” Pena admitted. “I think that (short run) was what we needed though since (Cameron Hayley) had been so good on the long runs. We had just been able to get distance on the him (Cameron) on the two to three lap runs. I knew a green white checkered was what we needed and it just fell that way, which was super awesome.”
Pena gained an advantage in the opening corner, but then was forced to fend back advances from Hayley and Rhodes until he crossed the start/finish line in the lead.
Once stepping from the machine and slinging around the water in Victory Lane it was palpable that Pena’s confidence has been restored and he had the weapons to go on a winning-streak – not a losing streak.
Good momentum is something the Virginia native hasn’t had the past few seasons.
“The feeling of winning a race is indescribable,” Pena expressed. “Everybody in the entire organization is pumped over (the win). It’s been quite some time. I know I’m capable of (winning), I know my guys are capable, it was just a matter of getting an entire weekend together. The drought is over now and we are just going to keep pulling these wins out.”
With the win-in-hand and the bad start to the season behind him Pena isn’t focusing on the points standings, he has his eyes set on one thing only: more victories.
“It has been a rough season so far,” Pena explained. “Everyone’s just learning each other. The past couple weeks have been good though. I think we had a shot to win at New Hampshire, but we were running third and the right front blew. The main thing is that we are fast, points are a non-factor. We are just going for wins at this point.”
Pena’s also seeking victories to help build his resume for NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series teams to notice and turn into opportunities, something he’s dreamed about since his childhood.
“The win helps a lot,” Pena stated about the win furthering potential plans in the Trucks or the Nationwide Series. “You have to win and be in the spotlight at all times if you’re going to move up. The cool thing about it is all the Sprint Cup and Nationwide are watching these races. It was really cool to be tweeted (on Twitter) from Cup drivers and Nationwide team owners.”
If Pena continues to have runs like he did at Columbus, the possibility of moving up won’t be a worry at all.
Listen in as Race Chaser Mid-Atlantic correspondent Marshall Gabell sat down with Pena for a complete interview on a recent edition of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show: