Four Drivers To Compete on NASCAR Grand National Division Level
The 2007 Drive for Diversity class was unveiled Monday, a seven-driver group that will compete in both the NASCAR Grand National Division and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
This marks the first year the Drive for Diversity program will advance multiple drivers to the Grand National level.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, formerly the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. In 2007 four drivers will compete in the NASCAR Grand National Division – two in the Busch East Series and two in the West Series – and three drivers will compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“Drive for Diversity’s decision to expand into the NASCAR Grand National Division is exciting news for the entire industry,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR managing director of public affairs, who oversees the diversity department. “The support of everybody involved – from team owners to sponsors – has really made the program a success in its three years of existence. NASCAR is looking forward to these young drivers progressing and hopefully climbing the NASCAR ladder system into one of our three national series.”
The program enjoyed a breakout year in 2006. Eight drivers combined for 11 wins and nine poles. They also accumulated 36 top fives and 68 top 10s in 119 races. Five drivers from last year’s class will return to the program in 2007. Marc Davis, who spent last year in the program, was signed to a multi-year contract by Joe Gibbs Racing as a result of his performance with Drive for Diversity.
“We are thrilled not only with the driver lineup for 2007, but for the advancements the program has made in its three years,” said Greg Calhoun, chief executive officer of Access Marketing & Communications, which runs the Drive for Diversity program. “The program’s expansion into the NASCAR Grand National Division will give these talented young drivers an excellent platform in which to develop their skills and display their talents.”
The Drive for Diversity program is entering its fourth season as NASCAR’s leading on-track initiative. The program is designed to give minority and female drivers an opportunity to compete with established teams in NASCAR’s grassroots series. In each of the first three years of the program, the drivers selected raced in the
Jesus Hernandez has won in the tough Late Model Stock Car class at Hickory. Now he'll try to do the same in Busch East. (Drive for Diversity Photo)
Over 300 drivers submitted resumes to participate in the program this year. Eighteen of those drivers were selected to take part in the Testing & Evaluation Combine held last October at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. At the combine, the drivers were evaluated based on their on-track performance and interview sessions with team owners.
The following seven drivers were selected by their respective team owners to compete in the program in 2007:
* Chris Bristol of Columbus, Ohio, returns to the Drive for Diversity program for the second season and will race in
the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series for Fitz Motorsports. Bristol made history in 2005 when he became the first African-American driver to win at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
* Michael Gallegos of Wheatridge, Colo., returns to the Drive for Diversity program for the third season and will race in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series for Performance Motorsports. Gallegos earned the D4D program’s first pole position at Carraway (N.C.) Speedway in 2005. Last season he finished seventh in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series.
* Paul Harraka of Fairlawn, N.J., will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Bill McAnally Racing. Harraka has over 150 go-kart wins in his career and has won six World Karting Association championships and 13 total national championships.
* Jessica Helberg of Rohnert Park, Calif., returns to the Drive for Diversity program for the second season and will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Richard Childress Racing/Bill McAnally Racing. Helberg holds two Outlaw Dirt Kart track records.
* Jesus Hernandez of Fresno, Calif., returns to the Drive for Diversity program for the third season and will race in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series for Ginn Racing. Hernandez won two races and three poles last season at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
* Peter Hernandez of Blue Island, Ill., returns to the Drive for Diversity program for the second season and will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Spraker Racing Enterprises. Last season Hernandez won three races at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and was named NASCAR Diversity Driver of the Year.
* Lloyd Mack of Los Angeles, Calif., will race in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series for STAR Motorsports. Mack has won two national karting championships, a World Karting Association championship and five California state championships. In the past two years he has four feature wins at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
Chris Bristol is another driver making the step from Late Models into Busch East. (Joe Gibbs Racing Photo)
Jessica Helberg will race on the West Coast for Richard Childress Racing and West Series superteam Bill McAnally Racing. (NASCAR Photo)