When Katherine Legge‘s name flashed by on the ticker in last month’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, casual race fans likely ignored her. But she impressed Johnny Davis, owner of JD Motorsports, enough to get a shot on an oval this past weekend at Richmond Raceway.
Legge, 38, finished 30th in her series debut at Mid-Ohio. However, she bounced back at Road America to finish 14th on the famed road course. At one point, she drove the No. 15 inside the top five, even passing eventual race winner Justin Allgaier.
However, Richmond presented a challenge she’d only faced a handful of times in career — running on an oval. And that was in IndyCar, a car which feels like a feather compared to a 3400-pound XFINITY car, where the speeds are much slower.
To get ready for Richmond, she leaned on one driver, in particular, Andy Lally, her 2017 Weathertech Sports Car teammate at Michael Shank Racing, and her current teammates at JD Motorsports.
“I’m really lucky I have Andy here,” Legge told Frontstretch at Richmond. “I know he was Rookie of the Year in [the Monster Energy NASCAR] Cup [Series] a while back , and he knows what it’s like to come to a place for the first time. The team has so much experience, just everyone on the team — asking them who, what, why, where and how. They’ve made it a lot easier, for sure.”
In Friday’s (Sept. 21) race at Richmond, Legge brought out a pair of cautions — one for a spin, the other for getting into the wall — that likely cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. the race win. But it was a learning experience for the rookie NASCAR driver, who grew up racing go-karts in England.
Legge admits she has a bucket list of items she wants to check off in racing, one of which was running in NASCAR. But Lally, along with other Sports Car drivers, had a big part in getting her to give it a shot.
“I heard Justin Marks and Andy Lally talk about it, and they spoke about it with such enthusiasm,” Legge said of wanting to go the NASCAR route. “I’m good friends with AJ Allmendinger. I said, “I want to see what this is all about.” I didn’t know if I’d like it or be good at it or what the deal was. I was lucky enough that those guys game together.
“Between them and Andy talking about it one day, they found me an opportunity. I was very lucky to land with these guys.”
In three races driving the No. 15 car, including Richmond, Legge has an average finish of 24th. At Richmond, she finished 28th, ahead of two JDM cars (Vinnie Miller and Quin Houff). But with the challenge of driving NASCAR, which is notoriously known as being the toughest form of motorsports, she has mixed feelings on how the previous series she’s competed in has helped.
“It didn’t, not at all,” Legge said. “It’s driving a car, and I think that I’ve driven so many other different kinds of cars helps. Stock car is very different from anything else I’ve ever driven.
“I think a lot of people are interested in seeing whether I can do it or not. I don’t know whether they’ve made their mind up on me yet, so I think it’s exploratory. ‘Let’s see if she likes it, let’s see if she can do it.’”
Moving forward, Legge has two more races in Sports Car this season, where she currently sits third in points with a pair of victories. But before heading to Road Atlanta, she will compete in the XFINITY race at the ROVAL this weekend, which is the first time NASCAR will run on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I’m excited for the ROVAL, for sure,” Legge said. “It will be great to get some testing next week because we haven’t had any. It rained at Mid-Ohio, it rained at Road America, so it’s kind of sucky about that.”
What does her NASCAR future look like? Legge’s not certain but would like to prove she’s got what it takes to compete with some of the series’ best.
Legge believes failing isn’t an option because she’s having the time of her life in NASCAR.
“I want to do more NASCAR races, whether it’s this year, next year, just in general,” Legge said. “I love it, and I’ve never had so much fun in a race car. The better I can do is even better. I would be disappointed [if I don’t get another shot on an oval] because that means I haven’t done a good job here.”
- JR Motorsports announced this week that Noah Gragson will pilot the No. 1 Chevrolet next season, replacing a retired Elliott Sadler. In 42 career Camping World Truck Series starts, Gragson has a pair of victories for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
- It was reported on Sunday (Sept. 23) that Vinnie Miller will join B.J. McLeod Motorsports for the remainder of 2018 to drive the No. 78 car, where he will run full-time in 2019. Through the opening 27 races of the season, Miller has an average finish of 28.5, placing a season-best 17th in a pair of races. Lawson Aschenbach will be piloting the No. 01 for JDM this weekend in place of Miller.
- This weekend, NASCAR heads to the ROVAL, and it will be Justin Marks‘ last weekend in the sport as he announced on Twitter on Monday afternoon (Sept. 23). His only XFINITY win came in a downpour at Mid-Ohio in 2016, leading 43 of 75 laps.