AMPA — It took 33 races and three years, but Chase Cabre finally celebrated his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win Sunday.
Cabre, in his third season with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity development program, won the Memphis 150 at Memphis International Raceway in Millington, Tenn.. He gave Rev Racing, which fields cars for the program in the development series, its 20th overall win.
The 22-year-old Thonotosassa native returned to the Tampa Bay area Tuesday, with plans to head back to his home in Cornelius, N.C., around the middle of the week. His next race is July 20 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Cabre talked to the Tampa Bay Times about his win and his life in stock-car racing.
Describe your win in Memphis and the emotions that went into that day.
To start the day, right before the race, I was really down because we didn’t qualify where we wanted to. I thought we were going to be way better and have a lot more speed and when you qualify that bad you kind of think, “Whoa, I don’t know if we’ll have the speed to get up to the front.” But, throughout the race we were able to work our way one after another, car after car and made it up to the top-five and then all the way up to the lead. I got to the lead and I thought, “Holy cow, I have a shot at this.” Once I realized I was going to win it it felt like every lap was 10,000 laps and it took so long to get to that final lap, because anything can happen in racing. You could go into the last corner and blow a tire and that’s it, it’s over. But you start to hear everything; every rock, sound and feel every vibration thinking, “Has that been going on the whole time?”
When I crossed the finish line, every emotion that you could expect hits you at once. And it’s really cool to get out and everything is super surreal. It’s hard to take a moment to let it sink in and hold onto it. My first thought was, “We did it! Finally, we did it!” I didn’t expect it to come on that day and it did.
Do you think a lot of people overlook the fitness aspect of racing since you all are sitting the entire time?
Absolutely, 100 percent. It’s a huge wear on your body and you get out of your car at the end of the weekend and you feel almost ill. You’ve worked so hard all weekend and you’ve completely depleted your body and you’re toast.
The biggest thing for us is making sure we eat properly. I wear a heart rate monitor and I burned 1,900 calories in just two hours in the car at Memphis. We always try to bring something to the race track to avoid the typical concession foods like cheeseburgers. My go-to meal is a cold-cut sandwich with veggies from Subway because it has some protein and every place has a Subway nearby. It’ll also last all weekend so they’re super simple to grab and go.
I’m also a fitness freak, so I love wearing the heart monitor. It’s cool to look at it and see where my heart spikes, and if you look at the time stamp that’s where I took the lead. It’s really cool when you look at it and know how the race went from your perspective.
From a body standpoint, racing is also a huge mental game and you have to be focused all of the time. When you’re racing there’s no telling what the guy behind you, in front of you or next to you is going to do. It’s as much a mental game as it is a physical one.
What other sports did you play growing up and through high school? Was it hard balancing school with racing and other responsibilities?
I played soccer since I was little and through high school. It was just something I did. I played competitively, too, for New Tampa Commerce and the Wesley Chapel Flames.
The hardest part with balancing school and racing was traveling and still going to school. I did it differently than most of the drivers that are coming in now because virtual school wasn’t that big when I graduated from Armwood High School in 2015. It’s also hard living down here and trying to explain to others what you’re doing. If you want to make it in this sport, you have to be in North Carolina, that’s where all the teams are based out of and where one of NASCAR’s headquarters is and that’s where everything in this sport comes from. It’s a natural thing to say you want to make a career out of there.
I sat down with my guidance counselors and my parents in high school so we could explain to them what I was doing and what my goals were. I asked them how I should go about things and they were pretty understanding about everything once we had that conversation.
How’d you get into NASCAR racing and what was that like for you growing up?
I grew up racing motocross, My father, Lou, got me into it because he raced and from there, we transferred into go karts because of too many injuries in motocross and that led into racing around here and into the NASCAR side.
When we went from motocross, I tried to stick to ball sports, but there wasn’t that adrenaline rush that I wanted. Someone suggested I should go out to a track in Dade City called Dirt Devils and check out go kart racing when I was about 10 years old. We went and saw it and fell in love with it.
I don’t ever remember a time where I chose to be a NASCAR driver. It just happened from when I was 3-years-old getting a little PW50 dirt bike on training wheels for Christmas to where I’m at now. I obviously want to do it, but it was just there and being a driver was always the goal. Now that I have the opportunity to make a career out of it, I can’t back out. I owe it to my parents that have sacrificed everything, my brother, Collin (a former K&N Pro Series East driver), and myself.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.