The Journal | January 13, 2019
Christian Rose’s racing career began with simple a question, and his first performance on a race track left no question that he belonged in a race car.
Rose, a 2013 Martinsburg High School graduate, had a chance encounter with a member of car owner and Xfinity Series driver B.J. McLeod’s crew while attending a race at Daytona International Speedway in July of 2017.
One of the first things he asked was, “If someone would want to get into racing, how would they do that?” and that was the start of a whirlwind journey that has taken Rose from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he attended college and played baseball, to the shores of Daytona Beach, Florida, and several points in between.
Rose and McLeod talked soon after, and the opportunity was there for Rose to begin his career. However, one thing stood in the way, and that was college. Before he starting anything involving racing, he had to get his college degree.
“My mom told me I had to get my college degree,” Rose said.
Rose did get his degree, graduating from University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in May of 2018. It was then that his interest in a racing career was reignited. He had finished what he had to finish, and it was time to start a new path.
“I was a baseball player who wanted to be a racer,” he said. “My mom suggested I call B.J. and see if he still had an offer. B.J. said, ‘If you would have called me last year, probably not, but everything’s worked out. I know we’re doing something crazy here.’’’
Rose’s first action in a stock car came in September when he had a test session with McLeod, whose organization focuses on developing drivers, in Hickory, North Carolina. He was there with driver Matt Tifft, and Rose’s fastest times were only a bit slower than that of Tifft, an Xfinity Series regular who will debut in NASCAR’s top series this year.
That prompted the next question that seemingly earned him a spot in the race car.
“Matt Tifft was there for my first test session, and he really helped me a lot,” Rose said. “My time was five-, sixth-tenths of a second off his, and they both were like, ‘Are you sure you’ve never driven before?’
“The test session was better than expected, and B.J. said. ‘We’re going to go racing.’’’
Fast forward to Jan. 5, when Rose competed in the in one half of the Red Eye 50/50, a super late model race at New Smyrna Speedway. In his first real race, Rose finished 15th out of 25 drivers, running the No. 99 car, sponsored by SCI International from Rockville, Maryland.
He started the race in 25th but worked his way up through the field for an impressive mid-pack finish.
“It was a whirlwind — to be in a test session and run by yourself to going 130 miles per hour getting into the turns. I had a blast,” Rose said. “The race is a whole different experience. You’re trying to work your way through traffic, cars inside of you, cars outside of you. I was able to pass some cars and get a top 15 finish.”
The race was just part of the enormity of the moment as the lead-up to the race was just as much of a whirlwind experience for Rose.
“You have the drivers meeting, and Mike Skinner’s there, a truck series champion and he’s run in the Daytona 500. You go right to practice and then qualifying and then the race — bang, bang, bang. It was crazy how fast it all happened.”
What’s even crazier to Rose is how quickly the whole racing situation has come together — essentially a six-month window of time opening up a possible future in NASCAR.
“I didn’t expect it to happen this way. I was playing on a college baseball field and didn’t expect to be on the race track,” Rose said. “It’s been so fast. Everything’s happened so quickly.”
Rose’s interest in NASCAR happened quickly, as well, as a 4-year-old in Martinsburg when he was a fan of Dale Earnhardt. After Earnhardt’s death due to a wreck at the end of the 2001 Daytona 500, Rose, thanks to a TV remote in the house, became of fan of Jeff Gordon and began learning a lot about the driver and the sport.
When Gordon retired, Rose switched his allegiance to Kyle Larson, who like most drivers had to work his way up through the several different racing series before reaching NASCAR’s top-tiers ä the Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Monster Energy Cup Series.
Rose, who made the move to North Carolina last year, hopes to take the same path as Larson and others and is looking to run a few races in the ARCA Series this year, which all depends on sponsorship. He’s hoping to run a full-time schedule in ARCA in 2020 and eventually make the move to trucks.
What the near future holds, Rose is just excited to be on the track and pursuing his dream.
“It’s a blessing,” he said.