DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dylan Smith peeled off the track following his practice laps at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., Wednesday morning and keyed the radio: “Hey guys, I just want to say ‘thank you’ for this opportunity.”
It’s a sentiment that was shared among the 17 candidates that took part in the on-track portion of the 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Combine put on by Rev Racing.
After the combine kicked off with fitness evaluations and iRacing simulations Tuesday, the drivers got to show what they could do Wednesday in three identically prepared Late Models on the .4-mile NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track.
For some, like Annabeth Barnes, from Hiddenite, N.C., it was redemption.
“This is a really great experience for all of us here,” said Barnes. “Everybody is really, really talented, so it’s great to be put in this group of drivers. We’re all given this great opportunity to show what we have that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
“I came here last year – my first time here – and I was disappointed in myself. Coming to a different track that you’ve never raced before is hard. I traveled around a lot racing this year, trying to get prepared for this. So coming in, I was a lot more confident and I was a lot more prepared.”
The day was divided into a morning and afternoon session, with each of the drivers getting an opportunity to make 10-lap runs.
Headquartered in Concord, N.C., Rev Racing, owned by Max Siegel, operates the NASCAR Drive For Diversity program, which is the industry’s leading developmental program for multicultural and women drivers and pit crew members. Rev Racing fields cars in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
The 2013 Rev Racing team will be selected from among the 2012 Rev Racing drivers and the Combine participants. This year’s Combine class included drivers from 12 U.S. states as well as Canada and Mexico, and a variety of racing experience from sprint cars to Late Models.
Their common goal of making their way up the NASCAR ladder brought them to Virginia.
“I love this place,” said Smith. “This is a great opportunity. You get to hang around people that can relate to you, and know some of the struggles and some of the things you’ve gone through. That’s really cool.”
The Combine will conclude Wednesday with additional on-track testing sessions.
The NASCAR D4D program created in 2004 is now executed by Rev Racing. Currently the top two rookies in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Kyle Larson and Bryan Ortiz are in the 2012 D4D class, while Larson and Rev Racing graduate Darrell Wallace Jr. made their national series debuts this year. Earlier this season, Wallace became the first African-American to win a pole award in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, while Larson has been impressive in several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts.
Drivers at the Combine include:
Devon Amos, Rio Ranch, N.M.; Dustin Ash, Las Vegas; Annabeth Barnes, Hiddenite, N.C.; Collin Cabre, Thonotosassa, Fla.; Kayla Cazares, Goffstown, N.H.; Amber Colvin, Mooresville, N.C.; Jessica Dana, Olympia, Wash.; Paige Decker, Eagle River, Wis.; Cassie Gannis, Phoenix, Ariz.; Lindsay Katz, Kalmazoo, Mich.; Jack Madrid, San Clemente, Calif.; Kate McCall, Port Orange, Fla.; Dallas Montes, Bakersfield, Calif.; Hannah Newhouse, Twin Falls, Idaho; Dylan Smith, Randolph, Vt.; Daniel Suarez, Monterrey, Mexico; Erica Thiering, Sherwood Park, Alberta.
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