By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For most rookie racers, qualifying for the playoffs in your first full-time season would almost automatically make it a success. This, however, is far from how Nick Sanchez feels, even going into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Round of 10 finale at Kansas Speedway above the cutline.
Although hardly malcontent, the 2022 ARCA Menards Series Champion is used to winning. He found victory lane three times last year, and that’s literally the name of the game in NASCAR.
“I wouldn’t call it a success yet,” Sanchez said. “I feel like we haven’t accomplished our goal, and that’s to win. But it’s been good. We’ve hit on a lot of things I wanted to as a driver that I really haven’t been able to do my whole career. We still have a lot of growing and a lot of work to do.
“I guess it can be a success, but ultimately you either win or you lose. Once you get a win, then you want to win a championship. I always try to stay hungry, and hopefully in these next five races we can get it done.”
Not only is Sanchez in position to make the second round of the playoffs, he’s had the speed all season to back up his rookie campaign with Rev Racing.
After failing to win one pole in 42 ARCA starts – with a much steeper competitive advantage – Sanchez leads the Truck Series field with four. He’s also led 231 laps this season, which is the third-most behind Corey Heim and Ty Majeski.
The 22-year-old credits his crew chief Danny Stockman Jr., his team at Rev Racing and their alliance with Kyle Busch Motorsports as the reason for his near-seamless transition from ARCA to NASCAR.
“All those things culminate into a really good partnership and that translates into the seat for me,” Sanchez said. “It makes my job a lot easier. I credit having a great team behind me for my speed. I think that’s been our strong suit. We want to close out races, but you have to be fast to be up there.”
While unable to seal the deal, Sanchez has been a contender for his first NASCAR win on numerous occasions. In fact, among his eight top-10s, he placed as high as runner-up at Atlanta Motor Speedway back in March, and third at Nashville Superspeedway three months ago.
Heading into the Round of 10 finale, Sanchez holds the final transfer-spot by just three points over 2021 Champion Ben Rhodes. But there’s reason to believe he’ll be a contender for the win yet again in Kansas.
Between four ARCA starts at the 1.5-mile track, Sanchez boasts two wins, a runner-up and a lowest-finish of ninth. Additionally, he finished sixth at Kansas earlier this year in the Truck Series, bringing his career-average finish to 3.8 in six starts in the Heartland.
“I think getting into the playoffs, I was really close [to winning] a couple of times,” Sanchez said. “Then I had to kind of go on defense and switch to a point-scoring vantage. I feel like Kansas should fall right into our strongest suits as a team – and that’s the mile-and-a-half stuff with raw speed. We just have to close it out there, run all the laps and focus on winning with an aggressive strategy.”
Sanchez’s path to advancing into the Round of 8 – and possibly winning his first Truck race – is off to a promising start. After wrapping up practice seventh on the speed charts, he qualified on the front row for the Kansas Lottery 200, missing his fifth pole by sixteen-hundredths-of-a-second to Chase Purdy.
Sanchez hopes to keep his playoff hopes alive in the Round of 10 finale at Kansas Speedway with the Kansas Lottery 200 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.