An up-and-coming racer made an impressive debut in his first race at Maple Grove Raceway during last weekend’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series presented by Penske Truck Leasing.

While many have cut their teeth on The Grove’s quartermile over the years, Manuj Rishi Kanick is likely the first rookie driver to race in a Top Alcohol Dragster and come from outside the U.S.

A native of Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation in the Caribbean, Kanick has been racing since 2005 in his native country, mostly in a Top Dragster.

He made the move to Top Alcohol this season and has been impressive in three races so far this spring. Kanick was runner-up to Bill Reichert in his first race Charlotte, and he made the quarterfinals at Richmond.

At Maple Grove, he was a semifinalist, losing to eventual champion Daniel Page. Kanick drives a 2012 McKinney dragster that runs in the 5.4s.

“I’m proud of what I accomplished so far,” said Kanick, who got his Top Alcohol license in 2012.

Not surprisingly, Kanick is still in awe of his competition despite his early successes.

“I can’t compare it,” he said, “it’s a different ballgame altogether. I’m among the best in the world and it’s a learning experience. I feel so honored to be among the best. I say that to be the best, you have to race the best.

“I’ve been received well, and we’re learning as we go along.”

Kanick plans to run a limited scheduled in ’13, which could expand if he finds some sponsorship bucks.

“I can’t afford it just yet,” he said of a full schedule. “If I perform well, some money might be coming. Hopefully five or six more races.”

As for Maple Grove, Kanick said he was honored to become part of The Grove’s long history.

“It’s an historic track with a rich history,” Kanick said. “Being that it’s the fastest track, from what I understand, so it’s an accomplishment on my own just to be here. A lot of great drivers came through here, so I’m proud to race here.”

Both Top Alcohol classes – Dragster and Funny Car – will be back at Maple Grove for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals on Oct. 3-6.