FORT WORTH, Texas — Kenzie Ruston will be watching the performance of Danica Patrick's No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet in Sunday's Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Ruston is always keeping an eye on Patrick's success in stock car racing's top series.
It's not that Ruston, an El Reno native who just turned 22 years old, believes Patrick's success or failure will directly impact Ruston's career trajectory. But she knows it will have an impact.
“Everybody thinks she's the best female driver out there,” Ruston said. “If she doesn't do good, some people might not give other women a chance, because they might see it as, ‘Well, Danica Patrick is the best one out there, and if she couldn't do it, no other woman can get it done.'
“I do cheer for her, I hope she does good. She needs to succeed so other girls can succeed.”
Yet, Ruston knows her potential success doesn't have to be defined by Patrick, or any other female driver trying to make it in NASCAR right now.
Ruston is viewed by some in the industry as one of the top young females in stock car racing. In June, she was selected as one of 13 up-and-coming drivers for NASCAR Next, a driver development program overseen by NASCAR.
The year-long program is two-pronged, with one aspect designed to expose the drivers to the real life of NASCAR's top drivers and prepare them for dealing with media, sponsors and fans. Secondly, it is set up to showcase the young stars to the media and fans as well.
“We want the fans and the media to get to know these drivers' back-stories, what makes them tick, why we think they have potential,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR's vice-president of industry services. “Getting them exposure in some of these events is critical to their development, so they understand what happens when you continue to grow through the ranks.
“Part of our driver services group's function is to keep an eye out for young talent, nurture that talent and give them opportunities to succeed. So the NASCAR Next program works to find young talent to spotlight and promote NASCAR's rising stars.”
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