By DAVID BORAKS
Nineteen-year-old Logan Ruffin of Cornelius doesn’t come from a family of car people, but since he was eight years old he has been working his way up through auto racing’s ranks. On Sunday, we’ll all find out just how high he has climbed.
Ruffin was among 10 drivers selected to compete last month for the ultimate opportunity: A chance to become a development driver for Michael Waltrip Racing in Cornelius. That came during the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge July 9-11 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
More than 700 young drivers from around the country applied for the competition, which also was being filmed for TV. Ruffin and other drivers are sworn to secrecy about the winner, whose name will be revealed in a broadcast this Sunday, Aug. 11, on the SPEED TV network. (Ruffin and his family are hosting a SPEED Channel viewing party Sunday in Huntersville. Details below.)
Ruffin first got interested in racing as a kid, watching NASCAR with his dad on Sunday afternoons and playing around on racing simulators at a local mall in Tennessee, where they lived at the time. But his wasn’t what you’d call a racing family – yet.
“None of my family members have ever raced,” he said in interview Wednesday. But after he showed some prowess on the simulator – beating everyone else around – his dad and uncle learned about small-car racing and “quarter midget” cars. “We built a car and took it to the track and I finished third. And that made me mad.”
They kept coming back to the track and racing until about the third time out, he came home with a victory. He has been racing all over the country at different levels ever since. At age 13, he started racing full-sized stock cars, and by 2010 had a deal driving for Turner Motorsports. He was named Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
But then the recession hit, the racing world began tightening its belt, and driving opportunities became fewer. He was now old enough to drive in NASCAR, but he didn’t have a sponsor or a team, or any money to race.
“I was at that point in my career where I needed a good break, and I needed a situation where I could be in a car more often,” he said.
Last February, he heard about the Peak stock car challenge and immediately applied, making an entry video and seeking votes from friends and fans. He was accepted, in a phone call from driver and team owner Michael Waltrip himself. “I was blown away,” he said.
Finalists then received expert coaching from the Michael Waltrip Racing principals and drivers including Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers and Mark Martin as well as Danica Patrick, who promotes Peak Motor Oil. From July 9-11, the chosen drivers were tested on a short-track road course, the speedway, and on car control and endurance racing.
“What this competition did for myself and the other drivers is unbelievable,” Ruffin said. “There’s so many kids now my age and a little bit older that have a lot of talent, they could be great race car drivers, but simply never get noticed and never make it because they don’t have the money to do so.”
“So this competition gave us all that opportunity, first of all to be in a car (he had not sat in a car for more than year before the competition). It gave me the opportunity to show some really important people in the racing industry what I can do,” Ruffin said. “The exposure is unbelievable and such a tremendous help to our careers.”
So would he tell us who won? Nope.
“We’re not allow to say,” he said. “I can say that everyone needs to be watching the show this coming Sunday, Aug. 11, at 12 pm. Make sure you’re on the SPEED channel.”
Whoever wins the challenge will get more training and a chance to earn a competition license. Peak also will equip the qualified winner with a sponsored stock car to compete in a sanctioned K&N West race.
WANT TO WATCH?
The Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge will air Sunday, Aug. 11, at noon on cable TV’s Speed Channel. Ruffin and his family will host a viewing party for media and guests at Taco Mac Sports Grill, 8700 Sam Furr Rd., Huntersville, from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm, to view the broadcast and meet the driver.