Beacon Falls’ Smith in Driver’s Seat for Diversity Combine

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith is living his dream.

“Racing is in the blood, and I have it. I always knew after watching NASCAR on Sundays that this was what I wanted to do,” said Smith, a Beacon Falls native.

Smith, 22, drives for Fadden Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Series-East, his third year in the East series and his first with Fadden Racing. The NASCAR Camping World is made up of two regional tours, with races on the East and West coasts. Both run at a tough combination of short tracks, intermediates, road courses, and speedways. Due to the poor economy only 11 races were scheduled this season. The final race was Sept. 25 in Dover, Del.

“I wish I had more races to run,” said Smith, who was disappointed with so few races.

Smith also has had to deal with a new team and the challenges that come up with change.

“We started off rocky, because I was on a new team, but we’ve come a long way,” Smith said about the season. His best race was a ninth-place finish at Thompson International Speedway on July 11th.

Starting Friday, Smith will be a part of the Drive for Diversity Combine at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.

“It’s like the football combine,” Smith said. “It’s a five-day combine where we get evaluated on track performance, and we get media training.”

This is the third straight year that he has been picked to be a part of the combine. This year the combine will be featured in the upcoming television show “Changing Lanes” which will be airing on the BET network, early next year. The 10-part series will showcase young drivers who are trying to make it in the big-time world of NASCAR.

“It’s like a reality/documentary television show,” Smith said. “It will be interesting to have cameras following us around.”

Racing is a yearlong job, and Smith will be going around to all the different tracks in the region to practice.

“I don’t really have an offseason, maybe two weeks off,” Smith said about his offseason plans.

On his goals for next season, Smith said, “I would like to be racing in the Nationwide series. We are just waiting for sponsorship. If not, then I’ll be back and try to win a championship.”

RCR Development Driver Gifford Selected for Drive for Diversity Testing Combine

Ryan Gifford

Ryan Gifford

Radford, VA (AHN) – Richard Childress Racing development driver Ryan Gifford, and 29 others, will compete in on-track and off-track evaluations at Motor Mile Speedway October 19 and 20 in the Drive for Diversity Testing and Evaluation Combine.

All of the drivers will be rated on driving skills, the handling of sponsors and field questions from media. “I’m excited about getting selected to participate in this program,” Gifford said. “The Drive for Diversity Combine should give me an opportunity to improve not only my driving skills, but also the other responsibilities that go along with being a top-level driver.” Gifford, a native of Winchester, Tenn., starte racing go-karts at nine and moved his way up the ranks on local dirt tracks before being seen by Mike Dillon, Vice President of Competition at RCR and owner of Team Dillon Racing.

“Ryan is a young driver with a lot of potential,” Dillon said. “He gives great feedback to his team, no matter what he’s driving, and he’s excelled in dealing with the media and sponsors. He’s adapted quickly to stock cars, and I think the Drive for Diversity program will help him grow even more.” Gifford, who was signed to a development deal by RCR in 2008, has driven dirt and asphalt late model stocks, along with five combined starts in the NASCAR Camping World Series East and West divisions.

In his NCWS starts, the 20-year old has two runner-up and four top-10 finishes and has completed all 715 laps contested to go along with his 6.2 average finish. “This season has been fun,” Gifford said. “We’ve had some solid runs and I’ve learned a lot about how these heavier stock cars handle. Being involved in the Drive for Diversity Combine is definitely going to teach me a lot more and, hopefully, will allow me to turn those solid runs into victories next season.”

D4D Kicks-Off ‘Academy-Style’ Training at Annual Combine presented by Sunoco

combine09Thirty drivers from different forms of racing across the United States will showcase their skills in front of NASCAR executives and officials at the annual Drive for Diversity Testing & Evaluation Combine presented by Sunoco, as they vie for one of 10 spots with Revolution Racing for the 2010 season. The Combine kicks off the new academy-style development for Drive for Diversity, with 10 drivers competing for the program under a single team ownership structure. The scouting event will take place October 16-20 in Charlotte, N.C., and Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.

“The drivers invited to the Combine will compete for an opportunity to be a part of the inaugural class in the D4D programs new academy-style driver development program,” said Marcus Jadotte, Managing Director of Public Affairs for NASCAR, who oversees the sanctioning body’s diversity initiatives, “As the Drive for Diversity initiative enters its seventh year, the program’s focus on driver testing and training will better position drivers to succeed and advance in our sport.”

“The Drive for Diversity Testing & Evaluation Combine presented by Sunoco is an integral part of the D4D initiative,” said Max Siegel, Chief Executive Officer of The 909 Group. “We are looking forward to this year’s event and are confident the drivers invited to participate in the Combine will raise the bar in terms of talent and competition.”

Since the creation of Drive for Diversity in 2004, 31 competitors have driven for the initiative in NASCAR’s developmental series, winning 35 races. The 2009 driver class combined for six wins, 51 top fives and 125 top 10s. Driver Paul Harraka captured two wins and Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s premiere development series, the NASCAR Camping World Series West.

The 30 drivers participating in this year’s Combine, including 12 members of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class, will participate in both on- and off-track evaluation over a four-day period. The on-track session will be conducted in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late models and NASCAR Camping World Series cars at Motor Mile Speedway. Off the track, the drivers will be evaluated during media and sponsor relations activities.

The drivers attending the Combine will also be featured in a television series, “Changing Lanes,” developed in collaboration with the NASCAR Media Group and set to air in early 2010 on BET. The eight-part series will showcase the development of young Drive for Diversity competitors trying to make it in the big-time world of NASCAR racing.

Ten drivers will be selected to compete for Revolution Racing under the Drive for Diversity umbrella in 2010. Six drivers will compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and four will compete in the NASCAR Camping World Series East.

The following drivers will participate in this year’s Drive for Diversity Testing & Evaluation Combine presented by Sunoco:

  • Jorge Arteaga (Houston, Tex.) is currently 11th in the NASCAR Mexico Series standings with three top fives and four top 10s.
  • Mackena Bell (Carson City, Nev.), a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class, finished eighth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model standings at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, (Calif.), with one top five and 10 top 10s.
  • Jessica Brunelli (Hayward, Calif.) competed in the Modified division at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., scoring 10 top fives and 13 top 10s.
  • Michael Cherry (Valrico, Fla.) scored seven top fives and 19 top 10s in the Late Model division at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., as a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class.
  • Tiffany Daniels (Smithfield, Va.) joined the Drive for Diversity program in 2009, competing in the NASCAR Camping World Series East for Hamilton Racing.
  • Heather DesRochers (Granby, Mass.) competed in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. She earned one win, six top fives and seven top 10s in 15 races.
  • Phil Dugan (Meridian, Idaho) competed in the NASCAR Camping World Series West for the Drive for Diversity program in 2009, finishing the season 11th in the points standings.
  • Cassie Gannis (Phoenix, Ariz.) enjoyed three top-10 finishes in the Late Model division at Toyota Speedway this season.
  • Alissa Geving (Penngrove, Calif.) raced in the 360 All Pro Series at Petaluma Speedway, earning two wins and 15 top fives in 15 starts. She also set a track qualifying record.
  • Ryan Gifford (Winchester, Tenn.) competed in the NASCAR Camping World Series East in 2009, as well as running dirt and asphalt late model events across the Southeast.
  • Katie Hagar (Nobleboro, Maine) set a track qualifying record at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway, driving in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series as a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class.
  • Paul Harraka (Fair Lawn, N.J.) became the first Drive for Diversity driver to win a race in a NASCAR regional touring division. He finished the season with two wins and seven top fives, and was named the NASCAR Camping World Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
  • Laura Hayes (Wilton, Calif.) joined the 2009 Drive for Diversity class, competing in the Late Model division at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. She scored four top-10 finishes this season.
  • Sloan Henderson (Franklin, Ohio) earned NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Ohio state ookie of the year honors at Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia, Ohio with six top fives and 18 top 10s.
  • Brandie Jass (Bryan, Tex.) competed at 105 Speedway in Cleveland, Tex., racing in the Lonestar Outlaw Sprinters. She scored eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 18 events.
  • John Jones (Mooresville, N.C.) has been competing in the INEX Bandolero Car Series, as well as testing late models throughout North Carolina.
  • Rebecca Kasten (Mequon, Wis.) has spent the year racing touring series Late Models throughout the United States. She tallied six top-10 finishes this season.
  • Ali Kern (Fremont, Ohio) raced in the Modified division at Sandusky (Ohio) Speedway, finishing third in points with two wins and nine top fives.
  • Brea Lopez (Vader, Wash.) finished third in the Limited Late Model division at South Sound Speedway in Tenino, Wash., with one pole, one win, four top fives and eight top 10s.
  • Jessica Murphy (Groveland, Fla.) competed in the Super Late Model and Limited Late Model divisions at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway this season, earning two wins and nine top fives.
  • Sergio Pena (Catharpin, Va.) kicked off his rookie season in the Late Model division at Shenandoah (Va.) Speedway with five wins, before moving over to Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.
  • Juan Pitta (Galt, Calif.) earned one pole, one win and 12 top fives in the Late Model division at All American Speedway as a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class.
  • Megan Reitenour (Miamisburg, Ohio) earned rookie of the year honors for the Late Model division at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C., as a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class. She earned one pole, seven top fives and 16 top 10s.• Jason Romero (Cameron Park, Calif.) won the track championship in the Late Model division at All American Speedway after winning 11 races this season.
  • Natalie Sather (Fargo, N.D.) competed with the Drive for Diversity program in 2009, running in the Super Late Model division at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. Sather earned one win and 10 top fives in her rookie season on asphalt, and was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Washington state rookie of the year.• Dylan Smith (Randolph, Vt.) was the only rookie to compete full-time in the Late Model division at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Waterbury, Vt.
  • Jonathan Smith (Beacon Falls, Conn.) competed in the NASCAR Camping World Series East as a member of the 2009 Drive for Diversity class. He earned two top-10 finishes this season.
  • Emily Sue Steck (Holman, Wis.) raced in the Late Model division at LaCrosse (Wisc.) Fairgrounds Speedway. She won three races and had 10 top fives and 14 top 10s this season.
  • Trista Stevenson (Pocahontas, Ill.) raced in the United States Super Truck Challenge Series, winning three poles and two feature events.
  • Darrell Wallace, Jr. (Mobile, Ala.) competed in 23 late model events, including nine UARA Late Model division events, scoring three wins and 11 top fives.


Franklin Driver Ready to Break into NASCAR

Sloan Henderson

Sloan Henderson

FRANKLIN — Facing the biggest break in her young auto racing career, how does Franklin’s Sloan Henderson prepare for it?

By surfing YouTube, watching videos and playing computer games.

Henderson, 17, got her hands on any information she could about Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, N.C., the host track for NASCAR’s Driver for Diversity (D4D) combine that runs from Friday through Tuesday, Oct. 16-20.

Henderson found YouTube clips of MMS and bought videos from the track to study how drivers attack it.

She’s also playing Xbox racing games and using a program called “Mind Shaper” to keep her mentally sharp.

“I love competition,” Henderson said. “If I do get selected I’m going to feel like I really accomplished something because there are some amazing drivers testing down there.”

Thirty drivers — including the 12 awarded D4D rides after the first combine in 2008 — are competing for 10 spots in the program. Four get rides in the Camping World Series and six in the grassroots Whelen All-American Series, all competing under the same banner of Revolution Racing.

Henderson raced in the All-American Series at Kil-Kare Speedway for Miamisburg car owner Gary Estes this season. She finished seventh in late model points with six top-5 finishes and 13 top-10s. That run also earned Henderson the Ohio Rookie of the Year award in the All-American Series.

“With an additional year of experience and a very productive year running late models, her resume really stood out,” said Marcus Jadotte, managing director of public affairs for NASCAR. “Her performance in 2009 stood out. That more than anything made Sloan a clear choice for the group this year.”

Henderson — who said the adrenaline rush from racing typically keeps her up until 4 a.m. — knows the combine won’t be all fun and games. A NASCAR-sponsored ride with the D4D program would be a boost to her career and her parents’ bank account.

“Money is so, so tight,” Henderson said of finding sponsors to keep a car going. “Racing is my life and I don’t know what I would do without it. The thought I might not be racing next year, and there’s a pretty good chance if I don’t make this combine, we’re probably not going to be racing or we’re going to race a limited schedule. It’s made me want to do so much better.”

NASCAR teams up with BET for new ‘Changing Lanes’ show

Max Siegel and Jonathan Smith in New York City

Max Siegel and Jonathan Smith in New York City

Black Entertainment Television, a network keyed to African-Americans, will air a show next season with NASCAR, a sport that has tried for years to improve diversity within its ranks.

“Changing Lanes,” a docu-reality series expected to launch in 2010, will spotlight drivers in NASCAR’s “Drive for Diversity” program.

“I wanted to see more opportunities created in NASCAR for people of color, especially on the competition side,” said Max Siegel, a former record executive turned stock car insider.

Siegel, who had been president of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., took the idea to Jay Abraham, who runs NASCAR Media, the sport’s production arm, and together they shopped it to networks. BET will announce the show today as part of its new programming presentation.

“We’re going immediately into creative meetings,” Siegel said. “We’ll come up with a pretty quick production schedule.”

BET has bought 10 episodes of the hour-long show.

NASCAR has a number of on-and-off-track diversity programs, including the “Drive for Diversity,” which backs female and minority drivers in feeder series for the sport’s top level. Some of those drivers will participate in the reality show, said Siegel.

“Every week, there’s a lot of competition, on-track performance, a lot of back story, and getting to know the participants,” Siegel said. “We want the audience to get to know what it takes to participate at this level.”

“Changing Lanes” is far from the first reality series to delve into the sport, however.

FX aired “NASCAR Drivers 360,” a show that followed drivers on and off the track. ABC tried a celebrity series pairing stars with drivers in a race competition. And TLC aired “NASCAR Wives.”

None, however, has focused exclusively on drivers who are women or of color.

“We want to tell a true story that is racing authentic,” he said.

Few of these sports-related reality shows have become mainstream hits, however.

“For people who don’t know racing,” Siegel said, “it has drama built into it. There’s a lot of speed. There’s a lot of complexity in racing. Those are the key touch points to make an entertainment product successful.”

Does that mean villains and heroes? Well, not exactly.

“I don’t know that you necessarily need any villains,” he said. “What people need are good story lines. Look at [“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”]. We want to do things that, obviously, cast NASCAR in the exciting and fun light that it is. We won’t script it in a way where we’re creating villains and rivalries.”

Siegel said NASCAR officials have gone a long way in diversifying the sport, noting that there’s been an impact off the track, but he acknowledged that until there’s a top female driver or one of color, NASCAR will continue to be criticized.

“I do think fans will catch on when we do have a star that people can connect with,” Siegel said, hoping to have a hand in that with “Changing Lanes.” “It will have an impact.”

Vader's Brea Lopez on Path to NASCAR Stardom

Attending 2009 Drive for Diversity Combine

Attending 2009 Drive for Diversity Combine

Brea Lopez’s new puppy is named Revy. Actually, its full name is Revy Piston. Allow her to explain.

“You know, Revy … like when you rev your car,” said the energetic 21-year-old. “And Piston, well, that’s pretty self explanatory.”

Makes sense, especially for a young racer who’s making a meteoric rise in the world of driving fast.

Lopez, who resides in Vader, recently won Rookie of the Year at South Sound Speedway near Tenino in the NASCAR-style, Limited Late Models stock-car category, where she finished third in the point standings. She was the first female at the track to capture a main event and had four top-five finishes.

In itself, a successful rookie campaign driving the “big cars” after ruling midget-car racing for much of her youth would be reason to smile — and maybe even spring for a T-bone steak for little Revy.

Then Lopez received thrilling, potentially career-changing news. She was one of 30 drivers in the nation selected to participate in NASCAR’s Drive For Diversity Combine program in Charlotte, N.C., starting Friday and continuing through Oct. 20. She leaves for Charlotte on Wednesday.

The program is similar to an NFL combine, where college prospects are put to the test by scouts and team representatives. In Charlotte, Lopez and the other drivers will put their driving skills on display and undergo rigorous testing.

“I’m not that nervous. I’m more excited than anything else. I’ve been racing since I was 9 years old and I’ve grown up around it all my life. There’s nowhere I feel more comfortable than in my car,” said Lopez, who won’t be the only female battling for one of the 10 available spots on either the NASCAR Camping World Series or NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, both on target for competition in 2010.

“But you can’t just drive well. You have to be the total package. You have to look, sound and drive like you know what you’re doing,” she added. “They want someone who will represent their product well, who will represent the sponsors and be a good all-around fit. But yes, if you can’t drive, they’re not going to pick you.”

The extensive training program will include on-track assessment in all areas of driving skills, communications between driver and crew, media relations and training, and — above all else — the ability to adapt to a given situation.

Lopez was also excited to learn that she and the other Combine participants will be part of a reality television series, “Changing Lanes,” which is being developed in collaboration with the NASCAR Media Group and set to air in early 2010 on the BET Network. The 10-part series will showcase the development of young Drive for Diversity competitors trying to make it in the big-time world of NASCAR racing.

Even if she is not selected, Lopez will appear on the first two episodes. If she makes the cut, she’ll likely appear in the entire series.

“They’ll put you in front of the camera to see how you react. There’s also a lot of fitness testing. You have to be in good shape,” said Lopez, who applied for the Driving for Diversity program in 2007 and 2008, but was turned down. “It’ll be fun to be on TV, but my goal is to get a ride (opportunity to drive for a team). Whatever the outcome, I’m happy to get the opportunity.”

Worthy racing portfolio

Lopez learned how to compete behind the wheel from her grandfather, Dan Press, who pieced together a successful West Coast racing career of his own before retiring. From 1998 to 2004, Lopez competed across the country in quarter- and half-midget racing series, and won more than 10 championships.

She collected two Grand National titles, four consecutive Winternational events and two regional crowns, including the 2003 Eastern Grand Nationals where she defeated more than 1,000 competitors.

The move up to racing stock cars this year was a natural progression for a woman who clearly wants to make a splash on the big stage.

“People around the country involved in racing know who I am, but they don’t know me,” said Lopez, who graduated in 2005 from Apolo High School in Winlock. “Going to the Combine, it’s a chance to further my career and show what I can do in a race car.”

Currently, there are a handful of female drivers competing on some of NASCAR’s minor-league circuits, but none in the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series.

Lopez isn’t being greedy. All she wants is a spot on one of the Combine teams. The Drive For Diversity program is designed to give female and minority drivers a chance to do just that.

“They’ve revamped it quite a bit,” she said. “But the bottom line is, they’re giving people like me a chance to realize their dream. And that’s pretty cool.”

Mellowing with age

Lopez describes her racing style as “evolving.” After driving aggressively during her younger days in midget cars, she says she has learned to be more patient on the track.

“Now that I’m in the bigger cars and the races are longer, you have to know when to sit back and take your time,” she said. “I’ve always been aggressive. It’s hard for me not to be aggressive.”

Lopez has encountered her share of chauvinists on the track, guys who still believe females shouldn’t waste their time in a male-dominated sport.

She has left many of them in her dust.

“I’ve dealt with it since I was 9. It’s cool to win races when you’re female. But I’ve kind of gotten over that. I have a thick skin,” she said. “I know I’m going to get scrutinized more and I’m going to get bumped around, but I don’t mind giving it back. Not everyone is going to like you, but hopefully they respect you. Every driver wants that, whether they’re male or female.”

Lopez is a workaholic. When she’s not involved with her racing team, Brea Lopez Motorsports, she dabbles in real estate and makes appearances as a motivational speaker.

“I like to go camping and play with my puppy, but I don’t have a lot of spare time,” she said. “I love going to schools and youth groups, and speaking with them about goals and dreams. I see myself as a role model, and really, there aren’t a lot of role models in the world.

“When they find out I’m a race car driver, they get pretty interested,” she said. “I want them to know that none of their dreams are silly, and that you should chase them with everything you’ve got — no matter how big or small.”

Granby's Heather DesRochers Chosen for NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine

Heather DesRochers

Heather DesRochers

Like a high school student waiting by the mailbox for a college acceptance letter, Heather DesRochers anticipated a similar response.

Much like a college choice, this letter could change the course of DesRochers’ life and career.

The Granby resident was one of 30 drivers selected to participate next weekend in the NASCAR “Drive for Diversity” Combine. The program – which promotes opportunities in racing for women and minorities – culminates in 10 participants being selected for NASCAR-sponsored rides, either in the Camping World Series or in a Late Model at a NASCAR-sanctioned weekly short track.

“I had prepared myself not to make it,” DesRochers said. “I thought it was such a long shot.”

DesRochers, 20, heads down to Concord, N.C., next Friday for two days of activities surrounding the Sprint Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. There, the group will take part in media training workshops and an interview process – areas right in Heather’s wheelhouse.

“I love the fans, I love talking to people,” said DesRochers, an elementary education major at Westfield State College. “It’s always been a big thing for me.”

The next phase is Oct. 19-20, when the drivers show off their on-track skills in identical cars at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. DesRochers, who races in the SK Lights class at Stafford Motor Speedway, has driven open-wheel cars since getting her first go-kart at age 10, so she is looking forward to trying a full-bodied stock car.

“It will be different for me to go from open-wheel to a full-bodied car,” DesRochers said. “Handling-wise, you can’t drive them as hard as you drive the Modified.”

This season, DesRochers has certainly gotten the hang of the SK Lights car. She finished fourth in the points in her third season in the class and closed out the season with a victory Sunday. She and new crew chief Jimmy Fuller made an instant connection, and the improvement was glaring.

DesRochers hopes the afterglow of her victory carries over to the Combine.

“Now, I get to go down there carrying the momentum from the win,” she said. “I feel a lot more comfortable going down there now.”

The whole Combine experience will be part of a reality show chronicling the Drive for Diversity process. “Changing Lanes” is slated to premiere in early 2010 on BET, and most of the first two episodes will be devoted to the combine.

Since its inception in December 2004, “D4D” has developed 31 minority or female drivers who have won 33 races. This season alone, 12 drivers have combined for six wins, 51 top-fives and 125 top-10 finishes. The program is now under the banner of Revolution Racing and The 909 Group, run by former Dale Earnhardt Inc. chief Max Siegel.

“To better assess and develop talent, we are putting the drivers under one roof and in identical cars,” Siegel said. “This new standardized structure will also create more meaningful sponsorship opportunities that will in turn provide resources necessary to compete at the highest level with the goal of getting drivers to NASCAR’s premier series.”

For DesRochers, the program also gives her a chance to dispel some myths about women in racing.

“I think it’s just an awesome program,” said DesRochers, who had to fill out a lengthy application and submit a 60-second video on why she should be selected. “I feel like, in racing, I’ve been criticized more than my male competitors because I am a girl. I think we need this chance.”

DesRochers’ future racing plans are on hold, pending the results of the Combine. If she wins one of the rides, she will likely have to move to North Carolina, where the Revolution Racing team is based. If not, her 2010 plans depend on securing sponsorship to keep her on track locally.

It’s all part of a journey that began in go-karts at the now-defunct Pinnacle Raceway in Chicopee, continued at kart tracks throughout the Northeast and eventually landed her in a Mini-Sprint at Whip City Speedway in Westfield. Stafford beckoned after that, and now the chance of a lifetime awaits.

“I could have either gotten a fun-kart or one you could race,” DesRochers said. “I had no idea girls could race, so I picked that option, and it’s definitely been love from there.”

Bell Returns to Drive for Diversity Combine

Mackena Bell

Mackena Bell

Mackena Bell will be heading back east to the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia for the Drive for Diversity Combine October 16-20. Bell is hoping to qualify for one of the 10 slots available in the 2010 program. Drive for Diversity will see wholesale changes next season, with all 10 cars run out of one shop under the Revolution Racing banner.

Max Siegel, former honcho of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., will maintain his role as Chief Executive Officer of both Revolution and The 909 Group, which is the marketing and management arm of the program. Drivers in the D4D program will compete in the Camping World Series East and Whelen All-American Series at a variety of east coast tracks. So if Bell is selected for her second year in the program, she will be relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina and will be immersed in racing as never before.

Drive for Diversity Program Selects Brea Lopez

Washington State driving star Brea Lopez has been selected as a participant for the Drive for Diversity Combine that will take place in mid-October. The 909 Group, which took over the operations of the program, will own and operate ten racing teams and field the teams under the newly formed Revolution Racing banner. Four of the teams will compete with the NASCAR Camping World Series and the remaining six teams will compete on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and on target for competition in 2010. This once in a lifetime opportunity has been a dream for Brea for quite some time. The spirited young racer has been racing since the age of nine and realizes she needs to make the most of the golden opportunity before her with her selection into the program.

The NASCAR based group will determine the drivers for the 2010 program once the Combine is completed. The Combine will take place from October 16-20 and the extensive training program will include on track assessment in all areas of driving skills, communications between driver and crew, media relations and training both on and off the track and above all ability to adapt to a given situation. Former 4-time NASCAR Camping World Series champion Andy Santerre will head up the Camping World operations and current car owner Blair Addis will oversee the NASCAR Whelen All-American program.

The challenge to try something new has been a staple in the life of 21 year old driving sensation Brea Lopez. Brea began chasing her racing dream at the age of nine as she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, the legendary and very successful West Coast racer Dan Press. From 1998 until 2004 Brea chased the dream across the country following the quarter and half midget racing series and becoming quite successful herself in racing. Brea won more than ten championships in that span of time that included two Grand National titles, four consecutive Winternational events and two regional titles that included the 2003 Eastern Grands where she captured the championship over more than one thousand fellow competitors.

Brea’s success spawned new goals for her racing endeavors. Her grandfather looked at many divisions of racing and decided the correct path was to spend some time in the open wheel ranks driving a midget race car. Brea spent fours years competing with the Washington Midget Racing Association and did some traveling to compete in with other sanctioning bodies as she honed her skills in the powerful little creations. Brea was “Rookie of the Year” in her first season while being the runnerup in the final points. While her second year in the Midgets was an off year due to many mechanical issues and being the victim of having the race car stolen on a trip out of state, Brea enjoyed successful seasons in 2007 and 2008 winning a main event in California and challenged for the series titles all season long.

Brea and her grandfather decided to change divisions after the 2008 season was completed. After deciding the correct approach was with the full-fendered late model division, her grandfather purchased a Victory Circle chassis race car and fitted the car with a crate motor for competition with the Limited Late Model division at the South Sound Speedway in Washington. The transition for Brea was a quick one as she quickly adpated to the heavier, bulkier cars with ease and captured a win in July in her initial season. With the season schedule having one more event, Brea is sitting in second place in the points battle and has enjoyed the close side by side competition the division offers.

Brea Lopez was honored recently by the WNBA Seattle Storm franchise in their salute to Women in Sports in the area. Ahtletes from all division of the sporting world were honored for their achievements in their respective sport as they were announced at mid-court and took part in an autograph signing period during her stay in Seattle. The event took place on August 25th and although the invitation took Lopez by surprise, she was honored to join her fellow athletes in the joyously rewarding experience.

Brea’s grandfather, West Coast racing legend Dan Press, continues to work his magic with the race car as the car owner, crew chief, mentor and friend for the lady racer. Press is accustomed to working on this type of racing equipment as his success behind the wheel was driving late model type race cars. The team is utilizing a Victory Circle race chassis and the racer has been fitted it with a GM Crate motor for competition with the Limited Late Model division at the South Sound Speedway located in Rochester, Washington. The track will be a familiar and a good starting point for Lopez as she has always enjoyed great success while running her Midget on the fastest 3/8 mile raceway on the West Coast.

While the Brea Lopez Motorsports Team is ready for the team’s foray into the late model competition, the search to add additional sponsors to the fold continues on a daily basis. The downturn in the national economy has become a difficult challenge for all racers trying to find glory and success in a racing environment. Anyone who would like to lend support to the Brea Lopez Motorsports Team efforts should contact her through her website for further information.

Brea Lopez would like to thank all of her sponsors and supporters for their efforts in helping the team prepare for the 2009 racing season. Redline Oil, Finish Line Racing Equipment and new sponsor Joe’s Racing Products, Nex-Gen Motorsports and GA Motorsports Media have all played a major role in the success of the team.

Jessica Murphy Makes Drive for Diversity in NASCAR

Her racing resume showed promise, but dreams of a future racing NASCAR were unlikely, as they are for any aspiring racer.

Racing at any level is expensive, and Jessica Murphy’s family felt the strain of her racing career, which was based at New Smyrna Speedway. They might not have to worry about that anymore.

Murphy, who lives in Groveland, was selected last week as one of 30 drivers invited to NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Combine at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia. The combine will take place on October 19 and 20, and from it NASCAR will select 10 drivers to enter its Drive for Diversity program, in which NASCAR hopes to provide female and minority drivers with an inlet into professional racing.

“They’re giving me a great opportunity,” Murphy said.

Murphy began racing quartermidgets when she was six years old. The quartermidget track at New Smyrna Speedway hadn’t been built yet, so she raced in Ocoee at a track that no longer exists. Her father raced, and after a while two racers in the family became too complicated, so Murphy took a break.

At 12 years old, Murphy returned to the sport and raced Bandoleros. In 2002, she won six races in just 10 starts. Murphy won the New Smyrna Speedway track championship in the Pro Truck division in 2007, and last year she began racing late models.

“It’s just, it’s real fun,” said Murphy, who is 19. “You meet new people. I just like going fast.”

Several months ago, Murphy said someone at New Smyrna Speedway submitted her name to NASCAR. She interviewed, and then applied for the program.

NASCAR began Drive for Diversity in 2004. In the past the program’s participants were paired with teams that competed in the late model series or NASCAR’s regional series. This season the program shifts to Charlotte, where all 10 drivers will race for Revolution Racing, a team created specifically for the program.

Four of the selected drivers will race in the NASCAR Camping World Series and six in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing late models. They’ll all drive identical equipment and have the chance to move up within the organization from late model to Camping World Series competition.

“Five years from now, we’d like to see a number of female and minority drivers competing in the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide and even the Sprint Cup Series,” said Max Siegel, the CEO of the 909 group, which runs Revolution Racing, when asked what he’d like to see to consider the program successful.

If Murphy impresses the right people, she could be a part of that success.