NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine Presented by Sunoco - Day One SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (Oct. 13, 2008) -- More than a dozen drivers took to the track Monday as the fifth annual Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Sunoco got underway. The...
NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine Presented by Sunoco - Day One
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (Oct. 13, 2008) -- More than a dozen drivers took to the track Monday as the fifth annual Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Sunoco got underway. The two-day event, sponsored by NASCAR, is designed to showcase the sport's top minority and female drivers in front of NASCAR car owners.
Twenty-five drivers will take part in on-track testing, off-track media training and evaluations. They are competing for 14 rides -- 10 in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and four in the NASCAR Camping World Series. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is the grassroots, short-track level that serves as the foundation of NASCAR, while the latter is NASCAR's top developmental step for drivers looking to progress on to one of the three national series.
"I don't think people realize the amount of effort that goes into holding a combine like this until you actually experience it," said Max Siegel, president of global operations for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. "I commend NASCAR for its focus on diversity and the effort to bring more minorities to the sport."
Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver Jesus Hernandez finished third in the NASCAR Camping World Series East this year in his final year in the program.
For some Monday, like Kortney Kosiski of Lincoln, Neb., this was a first opportunity to make an impression on a bigger stage. Kosiski comes from a storied racing background: Her father and uncle are both former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champions, her grandfather competed in the 1960 Daytona 500. She got advice on transition from dirt tracks to asphalt from family friend Carl Edwards.
Others, like Trista Stevenson, are returning and looking to build off their previous experience. Stevenson competed in her first combine last year.
"It gives me a second chance to impress the people upstairs," said the 17-year-old Pocahontas, Ill., driver, referring to the car owners that were monitoring the day's activities from the press box level. "No matter what, it's great exposure. It's going to help my career a bunch."
Among those on hand to observe and offer encouragement to the drivers was noted female driver Lyn St. James. St. James became the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1992 and currently operates a foundation to help females in racing.
"For any driver, this is a great opportunity to have a platform to showcase their talent," St. James said.
The 2008 season was the most successful to date, with nine drivers earning a combined 14 wins, 42 top fives and 88 top 10s. Paul Harraka captured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Championship at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif.; he is the first driver to win a championship as part of the Drive for Diversity program.
"The pool of drivers is getting deeper," said St. James. "Young drivers are realizing the opportunity being presented to them.
"The combine provides them with a window of opportunity that didn't exist before. And because of that, the pool will continue to get bigger. When there's any success, that encourages everybody."
Other drivers to compete in the on-track session Monday were:
Mackena Bell (Carson City, Nev.), Kristin Bumbera (Sealy, Texas), Michael Cherry (Valrico, Fla.), Tiffany Daniels (Smithfield, Va.), Mike Gallegos (Wheat Ridge, Colo.), Paul Harraka (Fair Lawn, N.J.), Amanda Lynch (Piedmont, S.C.), Megan Reitenour (Miamisburg, Ohio), Natalie Sather (Fargo, N.D.), Jonathan Smith (Beacon Falls, Conn.), and Emily Sue Steck (Holman, Wis.).