Nineteen-year-old Sergio Peña – who was recently announced as the driver of BMR’s No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West for 2013 – will team with D.J. Kennington, who last year collected a second title to go with the 2010 championship he won in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1. Kennington of St. Thomas, Ontario, will pilot BMR’s No. 28 Castrol Toyota at Daytona.
Peña of Winchester, Va., and Kennington will participate in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series portion of the inaugural event at “The World Center of Racing” that will also include a combination race for the two NASCAR Whelen Modified tours and a late model competition for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The event will be contested on a .4-mile oval on the backstretch at DIS.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to compete in this exciting new event,” said BMR President Bill McAnally. “We anticipate it will attract the best caliber teams in NASCAR regional touring and we are glad to be a part of it. We want to thank all of our sponsors who made this possible – NAPA Auto Parts, Toyota, NAPA Filters, NGK and Castrol.”
While Kennington earned a guaranteed starting position in one of the three races by virtue of winning the Canadian championship, Peña will need to race his way in through one of the heat races.
The event will provide Kennington a new Daytona International Speedway experience – one that he feels suits his skillset. As a result of being situated on the backstretch at DIS, the short track virtually will be flat, and that suits Kennington just fine.
“I love flat race tracks,” he said. “I really don’t know why. I’ve had some success, maybe that’s why.”
Beyond some inherently flat road-course venues, the Canadian Tire Series competes at Autodrome St. Eustache (Quebec), a .4-mile flat oval north of Montreal, at which Kennington has a win and two runner-up finishes in four Canadian Tire Series starts.
The primary difference between the Daytona short track and St. Eustache is the radius of the turns. The Quebec track is egg-like in shape while the UNOH Battle At The Beach circuit is more of a paperclip in shape.
“The turns, I suppose, will be very different,” stated Kennington. “Getting the car to rotate through the turns will be pretty similar on a flat surface, I think.”
Traveling to Daytona is nothing new to the veteran Kennington, who made three NASCAR Nationwide Series starts on the legendary 2.5-mile tri-oval. However, the thrill of competing during Speedweeks to kick off the 2013 season is not lost on him.
“Anytime you race in Daytona it’s a big deal,” he said. “The history there is enough to knock you over. Whoever can say they won a race in Daytona has done something.”
The K&N Pro Series cars are quite different from the Canadian Tire Series machines, but Kennington has quite a bit of experience in them. Including a second-place finish in the 2011 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, he has four career K&N Pro Series starts. He also has 48 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts to his credit which, at the time, used equipment very similar to what is currently employed in the K&N Pro Series.
Peña joined BMR last month following three successful seasons competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He has been a member of NASCAR’s Next9 program since 2011, a season in which he scored three wins. Additional, he has been named by FoxSports.com as one of the NASCAR drivers 25 and under to watch in 2013.
Peña’s first race with his new team will be in the UNOH Battle At The Beach.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “I guess I’m kind of impatient to get the season started just because I’m so anxious to get to know all the guys on the team. The more races we run, the better.”
Like other drivers, Peña is somewhat in awe of racing at Daytona for his first time.
“It gives me chills just thinking about it,” he said. “I know we won’t be running on the big track, but just to be able to be racing in a NASCAR race at Daytona – it doesn’t get any cooler than that. It’s so awesome.
“Just to think about it, a couple of years ago I was running formula cars on road courses,” he said. “Who would have thought I would be going to NASCAR? And now I’m going to be racing a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car at Daytona. I can’t believe it. I’m so excited.”
Peña knows, however, how tough the competition will be in Daytona, with drivers from the K&N Pro Series East and K&N Pro Series West.
“The series is tough,” he said. “It’s a developmental series, but there’s nothing easy about it. I think the Battle At The Beach will foreshadow the year and see how people are going to perform.”
The event marks a new chapter for Peña, meanwhile, as he moves to the West Coast.
“I’m going to miss everybody back East,” he said. “I’ve built such a great relationship with so many people the past three years racing out there. But I couldn’t be more excited about going to the West. There’s going to be more people to meet and new tracks to learn. It’s going to be pretty much a fresh start for me.”
The UNOH Battle At The Beach will feature qualifying races for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models and a 150-lap feature on Feb. 18, while the racing on Feb. 19 will include a similar schedule of qualifying races and 150-lap races for both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and K&N Pro Series.