KID REPORTERS’ NOTEBOOK

NASCAR Drive for Diversity

“You have to put all of your heart into it,” said Gracie Trotter, one of the 10 young racers competing in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Combine last month at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida.

Gracie, who is 18, has been racing at speeds over 100 miles per hour for years. But becoming a professional driver requires more than just speed. The Drive for Diversity Combine has given Gracie and other young drivers a chance to earn a NASCAR contract that might not be possible any other way.

 

Andrew, center, with the young drivers competing in this year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine in Florida.

“CREATING OPPORTUNITIES”

Each year, the D4D Combine tests drivers’ fitness and media skills, as well as their performance behind the wheel. NASCAR officially began the program in 2004 at the Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. 

“The program has been incredibly beneficial in creating opportunities for minorities and women throughout NASCAR,” said Brad Daugherty, a D4D co-founder and former NBA All-Star. “Racing is a sport you have to be introduced to. You can’t just go to a park and ‘play’ racing. The D4D program bridges the gap to access.” 

 

Andrew with Perry Patino, 20, from Montgomery, Alabama. Perry was among the drivers chosen for the 2020 team.

“YOU CAN STILL MAKE IT”

After doing 20 laps around the half-mile course, Ryan Vargas from Concord, North Carolina, removed his custom-designed red helmet and shared his story.

Ryan, 19, was born with craniosynostosis, a condition that causes the premature fusion of soft bones on the skull. Ryan had surgery as an infant to correct the problem. He now proudly sports a zigzag scar around his head. He pointed to the same markings on his helmet.

“I put this [design] on to represent the scar on my head,” Ryan said, “and to let kids know that no matter what, you can still make it.” 

 

Andrew with 15-year-old Isabella Robusto, who is from Fort Mill, South Carolina. Isabella will be part of the driver diversity team in 2020.

MEET THE NEW CLASS 

There’s nothing like the roar of a race car’s engine. It means that something exciting is about to happen. That was the feeling at the Drive for Diversity Combine. Because of the opportunity, some lucky drivers’ lives were about to change.

On November 20, NASCAR announced the 2020 Drive for Diversity team. Gracie made the team, as did Chase Cabre, 22; Rajuth Caruth, 17; Perry Patino, 20; Isabella Robusto, 15; and Nicholas Sanchez, 18. 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of the author