ES: Diversity news and notes 2007-05-04

* New Women's Record Set By Michelle Theriault At Greenville * Rogelio Lopez, Jesus Hernandez Shine In 150-Lap Season Opener * Eight Drivers, Seven Of Them Rookies, Expand Diversity In Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 4, 2007) -- Michelle...

*   New Women's Record Set By Michelle Theriault At Greenville

* Rogelio Lopez, Jesus Hernandez Shine In 150-Lap Season Opener
* Eight Drivers, Seven Of Them Rookies, Expand Diversity In Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 4, 2007) -- Michelle Theriault opened her racing season with an eighth-place finish at Greenville-Pickens Speedway Saturday, April 28. Not only did Theriault become the highest-finishing female driver in series history, she was one of a number of highlights in a diverse field of drivers that raced in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series opener.

Rogelio Lopez, the 2006 NASCAR Mexico champion, finished fifth, and Jesus Hernandez overcame a late-race spin to end up 11th. Hernandez is a third-year Drive for Diversity participant.

Of the 30 drivers in the field, there were four Hispanic drivers, two African-Americans and one female.

Theriault's finish bettered the 10th-place finish by Carey Heath in 2003 at Holland (N.Y.) International Speedway.

An eighth-place finish for any rookie in their first NASCAR Grand National Division race is a noteworthy accomplishment. Sometimes, the 21-year-old from Bristol, Conn., wishes it wasn't quite so noteworthy, but she thinks that day will come.

"I want to do it as a competitive driver, not just a girl out there trying to make it in racing," Theriault said. "We've always tried to go out there and be competitive. I think that was pretty evident in just our first NASCAR Busch East Series race. We were competitive all night. We passed cars cleanly. I think I gained some respect by doing that. I just want to be looked at as a driver who is competitive with a good team."

After qualifying 21st fastest in the 30-car field, Theriault advanced 13 positions to earn a top-10 finish. Only one driver, Hernandez, improved his position start-to-finish by more with 15 spots. He started 26th.

During the pre-race driver introductions, Theriault drew a huge ovation.

"Obviously I have a lot of female fans, and they were telling me that they thought it was awesome I was racing against a bunch of great guys," Theriault said. "And a lot of guys who are sportsmen came up and told me they thought it was great that I was a woman racing in a car sponsored by Glock. From all angles, it was a positive experience."

In addition, Marc Davis, a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver in and graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, finished 12th. Chase Austin, driving for Rusty Wallace Inc., made his first series start and finished 19th.

A third African-American, Jonathan Smith, just missed making the field in his first Busch East Series start. Smith is driving for McRae Motorsports in the Drive for Diversity program.

Drivers from Mexico City were led by Lopez, who finished fifth after qualifying 11th. German Quiroga Jr. and Ruben Pardo were both involved in race accidents and finished 28th and 30th, respectively. Pardo ended the 2006 season by becoming the first native of Mexico to win a Busch East Series race with his victory at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Jonathan Smith , German Quiroga , Rogelio Lopez , Jesus Hernandez , Rubén Pardo , Michelle Theriault , Marc Davis , Chase Austin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing