Irvan Offers Opportunity for Young Driver Team joins with educational program to target problem of graffiti DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 21, 2004) - As a young competitor, Ernie Irvan was looking for a car owner to give him a chance to ...
Irvan Offers Opportunity for Young Driver
Team joins with educational program to target problem of graffiti
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 21, 2004) - As a young competitor, Ernie Irvan was looking for a car owner to give him a chance to showcase his talent. Now the role is reversed. As a car owner, the California native is giving young 26-year-old Kevin Conway the opportunity he once sought.
While their primary focus this year has been on the NASCAR Busch Series, they have opted to tackle the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series - entering the King Taco 200 at California Speedway on May 1. Irvan sees the event as a great opportunity for Conway's development. "It gives the driver a good feel for the same type of car that they will one day be driving in the Busch or Cup Series," he said.
The race provides a chance for Conway to get some good experience, Irvan explained. "There is a big difference between 'good' seat time and 'bad' seat time," he said. "You want to be able to give the driver good equipment so that they can really showcase their driving ability. To ride around on the track in bad equipment for the sake of being out there does nothing in developing the driver."
Although this will be Conway's first race at California Speedway, he has turned many laps around the 2-mile superspeedway. "It's a track that I've been very fortunate to have a fair amount of seat time as a driver with the Richard Petty Driving Experience and also being a test driver for various (NASCAR) NEXTEL Cup Series teams," Conway pointed out. "Over the years I've been able to get several thousand laps at California Speedway. It will be our first time actually racing there, but I've been able to experience a fair amount of success in other divisions on other larger, faster tracks. So, it's an event that I'm looking forward to with great anticipation."
Irvan and Conway both see the event, meanwhile, as a great opportunity to gain important exposure for an educational campaign aimed at battling graffiti in Los Angeles County. "The Difference Between ART and GRAFFITI," an art contest in its pilot year, was developed as a spin-off from the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors-supported Totally Against Graffiti (T.A.G.) program that has been underway for four years. The grand prize winner of the contest will have their artwork displayed on the hood of Conway's car at California Speedway.
"Exposure is very important to these young drivers and sponsors," Irvan said. "When you have the opportunity to run up front and provide your sponsor with good exposure it always helps. At a track as high profile as the California Speedway it's always good to for the driver and sponsor to get as much exposure as possible. Los Angeles is a major market where there is a ton of media covering the event, as well as, companies who may be interested in getting more involved in NASCAR racing."
Conway, meanwhile, considers it a privilege to be involved with the T.A.G. program. "When we originally were able to partner with the Totally Against Graffiti program, I had no idea what it was all about," said the Lynchburg, Va., native. "I learned the negative impact that graffiti has in terms of costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year to clean up."
Conway stressed the importance of the campaign to raise the awareness between art and graffiti. "There are so many talented people out there that go out and deface public property, when they could harness those talents into an artistic manner," he said. "It's a different form of public expression of their art. They could use their talents to further themselves and their careers. That's what the T.A.G. program is all about, to heighten awareness of the problems of graffiti and the difference between art and graffiti. It's very exciting and a big privilege for me to promote that throughout the school system in Southern California and be able to take that to the hundreds of thousands of NASCAR fans in the California market."
Conway says he thrilled, meanwhile, to be working with someone the caliber of Irvan. "It's a lot of fun," Conway said. "It's kind of a dream come true. It's a very flattering and humbling, as well, to have someone with his knowledge and experience guide me through my career. To be able to talk with him on the radio and have him tell me what to do or more importantly what not to do has just been invaluable to help me grow and develop as a professional race car driver. With Ernie being from California, this event carries a special significance for us. We're really looking forward to it."
Conway's racing background includes a variety of vehicles - including two-wheeled, open-wheeled and stock cars. He started racing at the age of 3, when his father bought him a three-wheeler. He went on to race motorcycles in AMA motocross competition, go-karts on dirt ovals and winged midget cars. After moving to Charlotte, N.C., Conway began competing in the Legends series and eventually in a late model stock car in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. He became an instructor at the Richard Petty Driving Experience and later raced in the Automobile Racing Club of America.