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.

Back to News