Andy Santerre, the second-year competition director for the four Revolution Racing teams in the K & N Pro Series East, feels all four drivers have a legitimate shot to win the points championship this season.
The 12-race season gets under way Saturday at the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 on the half-mile oval at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway.
Darrell Wallace Jr. was the series Rookie of the Year last season and finished third in points thanks to two wins, seven top-10 finishes and five top-fives in 10 races. Ryan Gifford wound up ninth behind four top-fives, Sergio Pena was 12th with three top-10s and Michael Cherry had two top-10s and a top-five in three races after replacing Mackena Bell.
Revolution Racing is an offshoot of the Drive for Diversity program. Wallace Jr., Gifford and Cherry are African-Americans and Pena is of Latin American descent.
The quartet will make the move from Chevrolets to Toyotas this season as Toyota is one of the sponsors. They will also all have new crew chiefs, although Wayne Orme was Gifford’s crew chief two years ago.
“We have four drivers who can contend for the championship. It’s just a matter of luck,” said Cherryfield’s Santerre. “I think it’s going to be a good year. We should be really competitive.”
Santerre said since there are just 12 races, it will be important “to not have more than one bad race. Even one bad race could cost you.”
“We’re confident,” said Gifford. “The team has built some momentum over the winter. We’ve got new sponsors and Toyota has come on board. All that stuff will be a real benefit to us. We’ve got more resources and better technical support. Toyota is able to help us more than Chevy could.”
Wallace’s two wins tied him for the series lead a year ago and he is looking for more trips to Victory Lane, and a title, this season.
“That would be awesome,” said Wallace Jr., who is looking forward to working with crew chief Dave McCarty, who replaced Robert Huffman.
“He’s cool. We’re bonding. I’m learning something new every day,” said Wallace, who won the Greenville-Pickens race a year ago.
“I have high expectations. I want to be the first repeat winner there. That would be cool,” said the 17-year-old Wallace, a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Gifford, a development driver for Richard Childress Racing, said he had Orme as his crew chief for five races two years ago and said they had four top-six finishes, including two seconds.
“I’m excited. We worked really well together two years ago,” said Gifford. “We tested this week and we’ve got a really good car.”
Santerre said he isn’t worried about the fact they have four new crew chiefs.
“They’re all very experienced and we’ve all been out testing,” said Santerre.
Wallace and Gifford said Santerre is a valuable part of the team.
“He has become one of my best friends. He helps me out a lot,” said Wallace. “He’s also my crew chief for my Late Model car.”
Wallace drives a Legends car, too, and has already raced it “at least 10 times this year.
“Hopefully, that extra seat time will give me a leg up,” said Wallace.
Gifford said Santerre’s extensive background as a driver is important because he understands a driver’s point of view.
He also said Santerre is a confidante.
“You can talk to him about different stuff other than just about going around in circles on a race track,” said Gifford.