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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Drive for Diversity Helps Pave the Way for New Drivers

The combine had its deepest class yet.

Drive for Diversity participants look on at New Smyrna Speedway. (Image via NASCARMedia.com)

NASCAR returned to the Sunshine State this week where it scouted local grassroots minority and female talent for its annual Drive for Diversity Combine, sponsored by Honda Generators.

Held at Bethune-Cookman University and New Smyrna Speedway, 12 drivers competed for four spots with Rev Racing in the 2018 K&N Pro Series East. Three drivers will compete full-time in the K&N Pro Series and the fourth will race in the Late Model program, while acting as an alternate K&N racer.

Contestants went through physical and driving skill tests in various cars and media circuits. Driving tests were performed in a K&N Series car and a Late Model car. Objectives primarily focus on seat-time and media readiness.

“The roster of talent coming to the 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine is one of the deepest we’ve ever had,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “We’ve seen the program really grow over the last 10 years and make a substantial impact in NASCAR.”

Drivers from as far away as Washington state and Mexico came to northeast Florida to compete, including Ruben Garcia Jr., 21, from Mexico City.

“It’s a great program,” said Garcia, “Especially for guys like Kyle [Larson] and Daniel [Suarez] who needed exposure and seat-time to prove what they can do in a race car.”

Garcia credits NASCAR’s program to the exposure and early successes of Larson and Suarez.

Suarez, 2016 Xfinity Series Champion made his Cup debut in 2017 and Kyle Larson has scored five Cup Series wins since 2014.

“This is especially true for Daniel and myself, as since we race in Mexico it is very difficult to get the exposure we need to race at the top level of NASCAR.”

Another aim of NASCAR and the program is the engagement of women. Forty percent of the sport’s fanbase is female, and acquiring more female participants is pivotal.

Macy Causey, 16, became the first woman to ever win a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late-model race at South Boston Speedway [VA] in 2016. She weighed in on key aspects to be successful in the sport.

“You need to be athletic, you need to be media savvy — you can’t just hop into a car and think it is going to work out,” said Causey. “I think Rev Racing gives us a great opportunity to develop those skills via its media platform, its sponsor platform, all of the skills you need to be successful as a race car driver.”

Sixteen year old Macy Causey waits her turn to combat the driving tests. (Image via NASCARMedia.com)

Rev Racing Owner, Max Siegel was the former President of Global Operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc. from 2007–2009, and at the time was the highest ranking African-American NASCAR industry executive in the sport. Rev Racing carries this identity through its brand of elevating minorities through the sport.

“NASCAR Drive for Diversity and Rev Racing are proud of the impact that we have had in the sport and we look forward to graduating the next generation of athletes to the national series.”

However, Causey said Drive for Diversity is not just racing, but a platform for success without being in the car — a testament to their commitment.

“The program is also great in that it opens doors for us outside of racing, for things like college or even other non-racing areas of the NASCAR business that we can explore if we ever decide to stop racing.”

NASCAR does not end its brand in the United States. Sanctioned series’ appear in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series in Canada, PEAK Mexico Series and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

The participants believe NASCAR and the Drive for Diversity Combine are in the right place, benefiting from their developments and progresses.

Suarez competed in the Mexico Series, and K&N Pro Series East before winning the Xfinity Series rookie of the year award in 2015 and championship in 2016.

Fabian Welter waits in his car at New Smyrna Speedway. (Image via NASCARMedia.com)

“Growth is the biggest goal,” said Garcia, “I feel like the sport has already gotten so big in the United States that it makes sense to start looking internationally to continue that growth.”

Like other mainstream American sports, growing audiences and diverse athletes help the sport continue in growth. Garcia added to this.

“Having diverse drivers, from different cultures — that is great for NASCAR as they look to open the doors of the sport to new countries, new cultures, new brands and new fans outside of the U.S.”

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

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