RICHMOND, Va. – Practice makes perfect.
Athletes in every sport say there is no better preparation than under “game” conditions. For Ryan Gifford at Richmond Int’l Raceway the process was incremental and came in three prior NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts at the .75-mile oval. That experience paid off in spades a year ago in the Blue Ox 100.
“Each time there, I’ve learned more and more,” said Gifford. “My first time there, I learned how the track transitions from day to night. My second time we had the car in position at the end, but I spun the tires on a late-race restart which kind of ruined it. And last year, we were able the put it all together.”
Putting it together meant getting his first K&N Pro Series East victory. The Drive for Diversity product racing out of the Rev Racing stable had been in position to win on more than a few occasions, but one thing or another untied the bow and left the Winchester, Tenn., native wondering if it would ever happen.
In last year’s race, Gifford completed a pass of Cole Custer with 23 laps to go and held off eventual runner-up Brandon Gdovic on a late restart, a place in which he came up short in 2012, to drive his No. 2 Toyota Racing Development Toyota to victory lane for the first time.
“I was super excited,” Gifford said. “I was just happy to make it happen and find a way to win. We had found, I think, all of the ways not to win.”
Just over a month after that initial triumph, Gifford was named to the 2013 class for NASCAR Next, which spotlights the sport’s emerging stars. Later in the season Gifford got another opportunity and capitalized. In August, he made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa in a Richard Childress Racing entry and finished ninth.
This time around in the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond Gifford hopes to draw upon his experience at the track and successfully defend his victory in the Old Dominion State.
“I think my experience is an advantage,” he said. “I know what it takes to win there and how best to get into position to do it.
“The Richmond track is definitely one of my favorites. It’s real racy with top and bottom grooves that give us room to pass. The fans in Richmond are as good as anywhere and they’ll have a good show to watch on Friday night.”