Diversity across the board

Diversity on the field, or on the track, is but one step in the development of any sport. Not every sport, of course, will have the same racial, gender or socio-economic breakdown when it comes to participants or fans.  Some of that difference is based on factors other than lack of access. But when access is the issue, programs such as NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity can certainly help. And NASCAR does not have to apologize if a major reason it is doing this is to grow its fan base. Diversification is a foundation of any good business.

You can see the full article from Mark Billingsley at http://www.sacbee.com/sports/story/2257640.html, with an excerpt below.


Drivers, stock car racing seek diverse development

By Mark Billingsley, Special to The Bee
Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 – 12:00 am | Page 9C

Jason Romero received a second chance and doesn’t intend to blow it.

The Cameron Park race car driver went to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Drive for Diversity combine last year but didn’t earn a job. But on the merits of a track championship this past season, Romero, 25, has been invited back and is participating in the 2009 combine, which starts today.

The invitees 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 in Radford, Va. Off the track, the drivers will be evaluated during media and sponsor relations activities.

There are 30 minority and female drivers competing for 10 Drive for Diversity spots for the 2010 racing season. The program will sponsor four NASCAR Camping World Series teams and six Whelen All-American Series teams next year. All 10 drivers and teams will be based in Charlotte, N.C.

The invitees and the eventual 10 winners will be featured in a 10-episode reality series on BET called “Changing Lanes.”

The Drive for Diversity program was created in 2004 and gives talented minority and female drivers the opportunity to run laps for and present themselves to NASCAR team owners. With millions of sponsorship dollars riding on each season, the way a driver conducts his or herself outside of the race car is also important. Coming off overly confident or showing an inability to communicate well with owners and crew chiefs can bounce a driver from the combine.

Romero said he learned from his mistakes last year.

“Maybe I was a little too cocky,” said Romero, who won the Late Model division at Roseville’s All American Speedway. “Maybe I rubbed a few people the wrong way. That won’t happen this year.

“All the hard work and effort I’ve put in in my career so far has paid off. I got invited back and I’m not going to waste it.”

Joining Romero at the annual combine are Juan Pitta and Laura Hayes, two area drivers who competed with the financial and driver development assistance of the program this past season after successfully making it out of the 2008 combine. Other drivers with local ties include Katie Hagar and Paulie Harraka.

(The article continues at http://www.sacbee.com/sports/story/2257640.html)