When Carswell Motorsports unloads on Thursday at South Alabama Speedway for the Rattler 250, they will do so with a new driver but a familiar face.
Kenzie Ruston will be the full-time driver for the No. 98 in the Southern Super Series and was the obvious choice based on her familiarity with the Georgia-based team. Her fiancee, Daniel Hemric, spent the better part of three seasons with Jake and Deanna Carswell, winning a handful of marquee events and having secured the 2013 championship together.
Carswell wanted a part-time reunion with Hemric this season, but his NASCAR Truck Series commitments prevented it — eventually paving the way for Ruston to get the ride.
“We were looking at ways for Daniel and I to split the car for a bunch of races this year, but his Truck Series people wanted him focused on NASCAR,” Ruston said. “So Daniel suggested that I drive the car. We kind of sat down and talked about it during the race weekend at Atlanta (Motor Speedway) and now I’m just really excited about it.”
“We took the car back to Charlotte after that weekend and worked on fitting a seat and pedals and now we’re ready to go.”
Hemric will be at many of the events when his schedue allows and will help Carswell on the mechanical side. With the same combination of people working on the car that won the 2013 championship and 2014 Redbud 300, Ruston believes this is her best opportunity to prove herself as a perennial contender.
Ruston has a pedigree of success, having won in the CRA Super Series, but her previous two campaigns in the NASCAR K&N East has been an inconsistent challenge. With Carswell, she knows the car will be on par with those driven by the likes of Bubba Pollard, Donnie Wilson and Casey Smith.
In other words, the pressure is on for Ruston to prove herself to the racing world.
“I feel like this is my best shot to win races for sure,” Ruston said. “Last year wasn’t fun. We weren’t competitive. I didn’t want to do that again. Here, I know we can win races and I want to show people that I can still get it done.
“I’m not washed up or anything. My best memories are in a Super and I feel like we can do a lot of good things together.”
She tested the No. 98 at Anderson Speedway for the first time on Tuesday and walked away with a great deal of confidence. Her obvious chemistry with her finacee made dialing in the set-up a quick process and that could prove the difference on Sunday for the Rattler.
“He does a great job of telling me what to expect out of the car every time we made a change,” Ruston said. “We’ve been together so long that I just understand him when he’s breaking something down for me. I’m going to lean on him a lot and I feel like it’s definitely a benefit for us at the Rattler.”
For now, the tentative plan is for Ruston to run the full 13-race Southern Super schedule. That could expand to events like the All-American 400 and the Snowball Derby but it’s all depenedent on their results in the early going.
That mission starts on Sunday at South Alabama Speedway.