By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was the race of a lifetime for Puyallup, Washington’s Angela Ruch, who dealt with an overheating truck and going down a cylinder throughout Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona, to finish eighth in just her second NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start, becoming the second ever woman to score a top-10 in the series.
Perhaps more special about Ruch’s performance was the support from NEMCO Motorsports and Kaulig Racing’s Chris Rice, who gave her the opportunity to run the No. 8 JJ Resources Chevrolet Silverado in the season opener.
“To drive for Joe and John Hunter (Nemechek), and to take over a ride like that – what else can I say?” said Ruch. “He’s a legend, he’s won races here and that’s the most help I’ve ever gotten from any driver, so I’m just blessed and excited. Wow! A top-ten for us is awesome. No complaints.”
Late in the going, as a result of her truck barely hanging on, and trying to save fuel, she had to back off from the leading battle where at one point, she was running in the top-five and led two out of the 111-lap carnage.
“I really would’ve liked to go full throttle in the last few laps, but it is what it is. A top-10 for us is a win. I’ve never been in this type of equipment before in my life. I’m thankful to be here.”
The background behind Ruch running for NEMCO came days before heading into Daytona, and she admitted that Joe was the only guy that gave her a chance as she was searching for any team that would give her a chance to compete in 2019, as she’s never finished better than 25th in the Xfinity Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2011 and her only other Truck start resulted in a 30th place effort at Martinsville in 2010.
When asked about what strategy she’d received, it was simply to stay on the bottom regardless of what anyone does.
“I owe a lot of it to my team,” said Ruch. “Joe Nemechek and those guys have worked their butts off. They gave me a great truck and Nemechek told me that I have a top-10 truck, but I had to be smart during the race and stay on the bottom. That was the only advice he said, ‘don’t get up into the high line.’ That’s what I did and here I am.”
Once Ruch got out of her truck, she was welcomed with hugs and congratulated by the entire team, including John Hunter, who was calling the shots for his dad, but also kept an eye of her performance.
He stated that she wanted to learn how to get around the track that the Nemechek family has had success over the years.
“She wanted to learn and that’s what’s cool,” said John Hunter. “She led a couple of laps and ended up going down a cylinder, but she came home eighth. It’s her first top-10, but most of all she wants to learn and that’s what’s neat.”
One of the most important advice Ruch received from Joe was being comfortable running in her truck and spent hours at the shop just to get her prepared, something she’s never put herself into in her racing career.
“We literally spent more than 12 to 15 hours getting the seat right and putting certain angles. It’s crazy that I’ve never learned that,” said Ruch. “Honestly, I haven’t put myself in the best situation in the past. I’m a race car driver and I feel like I deserve to be here. I haven’t had the best opportunities given to me until now.
“For Joe to take the time out of his busy schedule and his son to come by, and help me like they’ve done, wow. They’ve gave me a rocket ship this weekend.”
While Ruch has strong finances and owns multiple businesses, she told her husband to sell them and enjoy life to its fullest just so she can focus on racing.
“I have my own finances, my own money and I was like: ‘Let’s just sell it and get rid of it, and let’s go have some fun,’ said Ruch. “For me to get rid of everything and have this opportunity, this is what I’m here for.”
What’s next for the niece of 1990 Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope?
Ruch said she hopes to run at least 5-10 races for Nemechek, including a possibility of running Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 1, but she’ll run at Martinsville Speedway March 23. Outside of that, she’ll be expecting an adopted son that’s due at any minute.
“My husband and I have been trying to adopt for the last three months, and it has been a struggle,” said Ruch. “We have a little boy due any day, any second, any minute. We couldn’t be more excited.”