NASCAR’s drive for diversity program began in 2004 as a way to attract and cultivate female and minority drivers into the sport and bring them up through the ranks. Through the years, the program has had its share of successes and failures, but remains minorities’ best shot at coming up into NASCAR’s top ranks.
However, none of the drivers participating in the Drive for Diversity program have ever competed in the Sprint Cup Series, and it wasn’t until 2009 that a member, Paul Harraka, won a regional touring series race.
Now, granted, it takes time to cultivate a driver to compete at the top levels of NASCAR. You can’t take a driver from the Whelen All-American Series to the national level in a year.
Though all of these drivers have the backing of the sanctioning body itself, all of them lack experience.
So what can NASCAR do about this? Find some experienced drivers.
On some short track, somewhere, is some African-American driver who has been racing late models for 15 years. America has many regional touring series, most not affiliated with NASCAR, and one of them has to have a minority driver who has been racing off-and-on for the past decade. Auto racing is also alive and well in Latin-America. ASA competed in South Africa over the winter.
Let’s face it: there are no NASCAR teams at high schools and you can’t go to college on a NASCAR scholarship. The only way to break into NASCAR is to do it yourself, and spend a great deal of time cutting your racing teeth.
Today’s NASCAR talents, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, the Busch brothers, Joey Logano… they have all been racing something or another since they could show you their age on two hands (or one). Logano is 20 years old, but has 14 years of racing experience.
It will take at least that for any driver, minority or not, to run up and compete with Logano. Most minorities don’t have the opportunity to begin racing at age 6. That’s why it’s been difficult to cultivate these young minorities.
So, take that African-American that’s been racing late models for 15 years that I mentioned earlier, though he may be 35 years old and not 20, and bring him into the Drive for Diversity program. Though he hasn’t raced in the K&N Pro Series, he will know how to wheel a racecar, and just never had the chance to move up to the big leagues.
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