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Mazda Motorsports driver Tristan Nunez balances high school and racing with ease

If you've wandered through the garage area of a Grand-Am Road Racing Series event in the past couple years, you've probably noticed a guy who looks too young to be driving any sort of car, let alone a racing machine designed to travel well in excess of 150 miles per hour. That young man is Tristan Nunez, who has climbed the Mazda racing ladder all the way to the top, and now pilots the Mazda Racing Prototype in the TUDOR United Sportscar Series.

Tristan Nunez is an 18-year-old professional racecar driver in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship . He is a factory driver for Mazda/SpeedSource.
Tristan Nunez Racing

Following the completion of the fifty-second running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Nunez took a few minutes of his hectic schedule to sit down and answer a few questions from the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner about life, racing, and the future.

1. What are your feelings about the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona, and your hopes for the 2014 season as a whole? This was my first time driving multiple stints at Daytona and it was awesome to drive at night. Every time the team would wake me up to go out for a stint, I was so excited that we were still running! This is a multi-year program for Mazda. 2014 will be a year of development. We are doing things that no team has done before with a production-based diesel engine.

2. How do you feel about the newly minted TUDOR United Sportscar Series, as opposed to Grand-Am and ALMS? This is amazing for the fans to have one unified series. Of course with anything new, there will be little problems to solve but this will be the best thing for the future of sports car racing. The crowds were incredible!

3. Do you intend on participating in the entire TUSCC schedule, or just t Tequila Patron Endurance Series events? This is my second year of being a factory driver with Mazda for the full season. I am incredibly blessed!

4. Aside from yourself, who are the drivers to watch out for in 2014? Joel Miller, Tom Long, Sylvain Tremblay. With four classes, there are a lot of great drivers out there. Many of them came up through the Mazda ladder system, now known as the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy.

5. Do your driving duties include other series in addition to IMSA? If so, which ones? I am 100% a Mazda racer in the TUDOR Championship this year. No distractions. We have a total focus on one program. In addition to the races, I am looking forward to testing.

6. What is your favorite racetrack? Mazda Raceway and Sebring.

7. With IMSA seeming to favor more strict enforcement of the rulebook, and imposing stricter penalties, do you think that this effort will stifle competition? I’m not worried. IMSA has a great reputation for being fair.

8. Do you see the series expanding in the near future, or will the 11 race season become the norm? If we get crowds at every race I think we can expect growth from a healthy series. My job is to race and develop the car. IMSA, working with the car companies and tracks, will develop the best possible schedule for 2015 and beyond.

9. I recently completed the Competition 101 Racing School, driving 20 laps in a former NASCAR stockcar. Do you think that programs like this are important to help fans understand the sport more? Absolutely! As with any sport, people don't understand how difficult it is until you try to do it yourself. I personally recommend the Skip Barber Racing School as being the best for road racing. My teammate Joel Miller and I both got our start with Skip Barber.

10. How was your off season? I am a senior in High School so my off season was spent in school all day then to the gym for a couple of hours and then some simulator racing in the evenings. I try to squeeze in some ice hockey whenever I can! I also go to high schools to do presentations about the dangers of distracted driving. This is to support my personal “Dnt txt n drV” as well as Project Yellow Light, the Mazda Motorsports partner.

Stay tuned to this column for continuing coverage surrounding the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend, as well as interviews and behind-the-scenes access to some of the sports greatest teams, while in March, this examiner travels to the 12 hours for even more endurance racing action!

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