Most drivers wait their entire careers hoping to get a shot in North America’s top two racing circuits, NASCAR’s Cup Series and IndyCar.
New Port Richey’s RC Enerson will get a crack at both in a one-week span.
The 24-year-old Gulf High product is set to make his Cup debut Sunday at Watkins Glen International. Six days later, he’ll be back in IndyCar for the Big Machine Spike Coolers Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
“It’ll be fun,” Enerson said.
That’s one way to put it. Here’s another: It’ll be the biggest opportunity and arguably the biggest challenge of his racing career.
After rising through the Road to Indy — IndyCar’s version of the minor leagues — Enerson’s career has been spotty. He broke through to IndyCar in 2016 with three starts in the premier open-wheel series, including his first (and so far, only) top-10 finish at Watkins Glen at age 19.
But Enerson couldn’t turn those appearances with Dale Coyne Racing into a longer ride. He has made only one other IndyCar start since (a 17th place finish at Mid-Ohio in 2019). Last year, he made his NASCAR debut in the Xfinity Series — the stock-car equivalent of Triple-A baseball — and finished 20th in a 37-car field.
All of that led to this week and a two-race, top-tier showcase.
The IndyCar appearance has been in the works for months. Enerson began talking with a start-up team, Top Gun Racing, in late 2019 before the pandemic sidelined the team’s plans. They put together a qualifying attempt at the Indianapolis 500 this May, but their late-arriving team fell short.
“After Indy qualifying, you’ve got to keep pushing forward, have a short-term memory and look forward to the next event,” Enerson said.
The team decided that next event would be at Indy’s road course, with an eye toward expanding the No. 75 Chevrolet’s schedule next season. After a recent test at Sebring, Enerson feels optimistic about his team’s chances.
“We’re definitely way more prepared than we were for Indy to show up to the road course and have a fighting chance to be up front,” Enerson said.
His other big opportunity came about differently, through his dad’s Lucas Oil School of Racing. Enerson works at the Florida-based school as an instructor, and its business ties with NASCAR’s Rick Ware Racing helped lead to Enerson’s Xfinity appearance last August. When Ware’s son, Cody, decided to race IndyCar’s event on the streets of Nashville this weekend, it opened up a Cup spot for Enerson in the No. 15 Chevrolet.
It also created a unique challenge: Enerson has never driven a Cup car before. And because there are no practice or qualifying sessions for Sunday’s 90-lap race, he won’t get a chance to, either, until his car rolls off the starting grid.
Enerson said he plans to approach the race the same way he did his Xfinity event last year. He has been studying on-board film and intends to use the first part of the race to figure out the car before trying to make a push in the later stages.
“When you get thrown in the deep end, you’ve got to take it in small steps without making it so small you’re left out to dry,” Enerson said.
It worked the last time, when he finished four spots higher than where he started.
This time, though, Enerson has the added layer of trying to drive two very different types of cars in the same week. He isn’t concerned about the quick adjustment.
“Once you’ve been racing for long enough, you can jump from car to car, and you figure things out pretty quickly,” Enerson said. “It’s part of the job description, right?”