After a rainy first day, it was all sunshine and fast cars at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., Thursday as the 2011 Drive for Diversity Combine concluded with 26 talented drivers participating in the on-track testing.
The drivers are competing for spots on the 2012 Revolution Racing team as part of Drive for Diversity, one of NASCAR’s most successful initiatives.
“Every year it’s great to see the quality of talent is improving and the word’s getting out,” said Max Siegel, CEO and owner of Revolution Racing. “We had some really talented young drivers here today and we’re just excited to get them on the track.
“It’s going to be tough to fill the spots on the team because we had so many talented drivers here.”
Revolution Racing is in its third year as a partner with the NASCAR Drive for Diversity initiative. In 2011, Revolution Racing drivers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Sergio Pena accounted for six wins in the 12-race NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season.
“It’s exciting to see the evolution in the program,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. “The success on track in 2011 certainly attracted additional talent to the Combine, and based on what we saw today, there are a couple of new standout drivers who are ready to follow in Wallace’s and Pena’s path.”
The drivers who participated in the Combine ranged from ages 16 to 24, and represented 10 U.S. states, Mexico and Puerto Rico. It attracted drivers from various racing disciplines, from open-wheel sprint cars to Legends cars and Bandoleros. The drivers with limited stock car experience impressed with how quickly they adapted to the heavier cars, while the returning participants continued to show improvement.
After waiting out the showers that cancelled Wednesday’s on-track testing, the drivers were looking forward to the chance to get behind the wheel – and they weren’t disappointed.
“We had a really great Combine run; we did really well, I’m proud of my run,” said Jessica Brunelli, 18, from Hayward, Calif., who was trying out for the third time after being part of Revolution Racing for the previous two seasons. “It’s a great opportunity and a great program, and I’m really lucky I get to drive with all these amazing people.”
“Today was really cool, the car was awesome and the people were really great to work with. The car was really good. When the track was really cold it took a while to get the tires heated up, but it was awesome and I hope they were good results,” said Julian Albarracin, from Bogota, Colombia, who then provided a recap of his day in Spanish. “El carro estuvo muy bien, la gente trabajo muy bien, nunca habia visto gente trabajando asi. Nunca habia provado un carro tan bueno como un late model que prove hoy. La pista estaba muy fria, tomo mucho tiempo para calentar las llantas y calentar el motor pero salio muy bien, me senti muy bien y espero buenos resultados.”
“It’s been a great day so far,” said newcomer Ryan Reed, a 17-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif. “I logged some really good laps, I’m really happy with myself, and we’ll see what that has in store for us when they announce the driver lineup for next year.”
The drivers attending the Drive for Diversity Combine will be evaluated by a select committee on multiple fronts including on-track performance, marketing and media aptitude, physical fitness and personality.