(Photo: Swikar Patel/Toyota Racing Development)

Gio Ruggiero ready to make the most of his opportunity with Venturini Motorsports at Nashville Fairgrounds

With Isabella Robusto still sidelined due to a concussion, a different driver will be making his ARCA Menards Series East debut with Venturini Motorsports this weekend at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

That honor belongs to Seekonk, Massachusetts native and Super Late Model competitor Gio Ruggiero, who will drive the same No. 20 in Saturday’s Music City 200 that Jake Finch drove to Victory Lane in the most recent East Series event at Dover Motor Speedway on April 29.

Having raced a Super Late Model at Nashville a handful of times in his career, Ruggiero has plenty of optimism heading into the Music City 200. He hopes to capitalize on learning from one of the most successful organizations across the ARCA platform.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” Ruggiero said. “Toyota has done a lot for me this year, and I’m excited to make my debut in an ARCA car, especially at a track like the Nashville Fairgrounds.”

RELATED: Follow the ARCA Menards Series East on FloRacing

Although he bears no relation to Reggie Ruggiero, who won 44 races in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the young prospect does have plenty of experience with the tough, rugged culture that dominates motorsports in the northeast.

Ruggiero successfully convinced his dad to get him involved with racing after watching several Saturday night shows at tracks like Seekonk Speedway. As Ruggiero started to get comfortable in the northeast, he began venturing further south with the goal of one day progressing through the NASCAR developmental ladder.

During the past couple of years, Ruggiero’s exploits have seen him tackle some of the toughest short tracks in the country like Winchester Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway. He has also shined in crown jewel events like the All American 400 at Nashville, where he earned a runner-up finish in his debut appearance last year.

Competing all around the U.S. has taught Ruggiero many hard lessons, but he credits people like Anthony Campi and current team owner Donnie Wilson for their individual approaches toward helping him find consistency against the seasoned Super Late Model veterans.

“Racing with Anthony [Campi] and Donnie [Wilson] has definitely helped me out a ton,” Ruggiero said. “They do a great job of coaching me. If I show up to a track I’ve never been at before, everyone on the team works as hard as they can to help me.

“Donnie in particular is a great driver coach, so he does his best to help me out over the radio and reviewing everything after practice.”

Gio Ruggiero brings experience to his ARCA Menards Series East debut at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, having finished second in last year’s All American 400. (Photo: Swikar Patel/Toyota Racing Development)

Ruggiero is optimistic the advice passed down from Campi and Wilson will carry over into a stellar East Series debut.

Nearly winning the All American 400 in October has provided Ruggiero some optimism as he heads into uncharted territory, but he admitted the best way to excel on Saturday is to stay attentive and provide constant feedback to crew chief Shannon Rursch.

“I’m expecting a little bit of a difference from the ARCA car compared to the Super [Late Model],” Ruggiero said. “I’ll just have to adapt to those changes in practice and learn the car as much as I can. I know Nashville pretty well, but I need to figure out everything I can and get up to speed quickly.”

Ruggiero knows the expectations being placed upon him in a Venturini car. Along with their three championships, Venturini has already visited Victory Lane five times this year between Finch, Jesse Love and Sean Hingorani, the latter of whom will be Ruggiero’s teammate Saturday.

While Ruggiero wishes the chance to race for Venturini came under slightly different circumstances, he is determined to put together a complete race at Nashville and justify the decision to have him replace Robusto for the weekend.

“I’m really confident going into the weekend knowing this is a proven car and a proven team,” Ruggiero said. “Hopefully we can bring home the win this weekend, but Nashville is going to have some tire wear with this being a 200-lap race. We need to be consistent and save all four tires for the end.”

Ruggiero intends to shift his focus back to Super Late Models following the Music City 200, but hopes a strong run on Saturday results in more opportunities to showcase his talent in ARCA and potentially NASCAR within the next few years.

The green flag for the Music City 200 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is set to fly at 9:30 p.m. ET with FloRacing providing the coverage.