Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ryan Gifford pulls double duty at Iowa, debuts in Nationwide Series

Ryan Gifford celebrates his K&N Pro Series East win at Richmond, April 25, 2013
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images  
The No. 33 Rheem/Menard’s Chevy has a first-time pilot for this weekend’s Saturday night event. Ryan Gifford, a participant in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, makes his first-ever Nationwide Series start for Richard Childress Racing. He will also compete in the K&N Pro Series East race for Rev Racing on Friday night.

“The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is getting out there on the track and learning more about the Nationwide cars. You know, I have zero experience in one of those cars. For me, I think I just got to take it a lap at a time and just feel the car out. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I'll have the Menards Chevy up front.”

Iowa Speedway seemed a natural choice for a debut NNS run due to his experience there. Currently in his fourth full-time year in the K&N Series, Gifford has five starts at the track under his belt.

“I know Iowa Speedway kind of like the back of my hand,” he said. “I think there will be some things that change between the K&N Series and the Nationwide Series. But being familiar with how the garage is laid out, pit road, things like that, is a big help as a driver.”

The 24-year-old Gifford earned his first victory in the K&N Series this April at Richmond where he won the Blue Ox 100. Heading into Iowa, he has four top fives, five top 10s and sits fourth in the K&N East standings.

The Tennessee native has spent time around the Dillon family, racing Dirt Late Models for Team Dillon Racing. Gifford said even though Austin and Ty Dillon are “almost like complete opposites” behind the wheel, he tries to emulate the driving styles of both brothers.

“They're both guys that I try and learn a lot from. That's one of the things that I do a lot is watch their races, just try and pick out things that they do that make them better than other guys. It seems to help me.”

Gifford said he thinks an important trait in a racecar driver is being able to adapt to different situations. That adaptability will be key as he switches from K&N car to Nationwide car for qualifying, practice and the races at Iowa Speedway.

How excited is Gifford about the upcoming race weekend?

“For me, I'm looking forward to it probably more than anything I've looked forward to in years,” he said. “It's kind of like the last day of school: it doesn't get here soon enough.”

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