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NEW SMYRNA, Fla. -- After a day of media training and physical assessment, the 12 drivers participating in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Honda Generators finally got on track Tuesday. But not without a little extra waiting for the rain to clear at New Smyrna Speedway.
Once the clouds moved away and the track was dry, the drivers were quick to get on the gas to show off their skills around the banked half-mile short track. The drivers took turns with two 10-lap sessions apiece in one of three Late Models, which were identically prepared by Rev Racing. Competition officials from NASCAR and Rev Racing evaluated them on their times, as well as their feedback and consistency throughout their runs.\.
"It was amazing," said 16-year-old Ryan Vargas, who is coming off a season where he finished third in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series California standings. "To be here and take what I learned and apply it today is really big step for me.
"I've been saying it all weekend. I'm more excited than I am nervous. I know in the end, there's four spots available and we all have the same opportunity to get those spots. I'm just hoping I show with my dedication and my consistency on track that I am worthy."
NASCAR.com's Holly Cain: Excitement aplenty at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity combine
As part of the evolution of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which will feature an enhanced focus on seat time to increase competition at the combine and on the track next season, this week has had a little different look than year's past. Twelve participants were invited to the three-day tryout, out of which four will be selected for the 2018 Rev Racing team. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totaling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.
"The talent pool is deep and as the years progressed, we wanted to make sure we continued to upgrade and improve the support we give the drivers," said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. "We're having more in-depth evaluation on track in both Late Model and K&N Pro Series cars, physical assessment and off-track evaluation, and even restructuring the composition of the team for next year."
Since 2010, Rev Racing has managed the NASCAR Drive for Diversity team. It's compiled 17 wins among six different drivers and produced national series race winners Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr. Earlier this year, Rev Racing's Macy Causey became the first female driver in the 61-year history of South Boston Speedway to win a Late Model Stock Car feature.
One of the other differences at this year's Combine, the current Rev Racing drivers who were invited were also part of the on-track testing.
"Having a whole season under my belt with Rev Racing and knowing how calm they are and that they just want us to do the best we can do," said Causey, "I'm excited to get back in the Late Model car and see if I can improve my time a little bit."
"For me, I do think of it in the back of my mind, it is like I'm re-trying out all over again -- they're evaluating everybody. I don't really try to let it get to me. I try to do the best I can do and work with what I've got and see how it turns out."
The on-track assessment will continue on Wednesday, as the drivers will test in NASCAR K&N Pro Series cars under a similar format.
Wednesday's testing will also be streamed live on FansChoice.TV.
In addition to being sponsored by Honda Generators, the Combine received sponsorship support from partners AiM Tech, Bethune-Cookman, Five Star Race Car Bodies, M2 Promotions, Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort in Daytona Beach, and Sunoco.
In an expanded role for next year, Rev Racing will also select an additional four youth drivers at a future combine. Those drivers will participate in the organization’s expanded Legends and Bandoleros program next season. This past season, Rev Racing had two Legends cars in the Bojangles Summer Shootout. The team will also provide several driver development test sessions in its Late Model at Langley Speedway in Virginia and New Smyrna during the 2018 race season for prospective multicultural and female drivers.
2017 NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combine Drivers:
|Chase Cabre||Tampa, Fla.||20|
|Collin Cabre||Tampa, Fla.||23|
|Macy Causey||Seaford, Va.||16|
|Madeline Crane||Meansville, Ga.||19|
|Ernie Francis Jr.||Dania, Fla.||19|
|Ruben Garcia||Mexico City, Mexico||21|
|McKenna Haase||Carlisle, Iowa||20|
|Nicholas Sanchez||Homestead, Fla.||16|
|Ryan Vargas||La Mirada, Calif.||16|
|Fabian Welter||Mexico City, Mexico||21|
|Armani Williams||Grosse Point, Mich.||17|
|Brittney Zamora||Kennewick, Wash.||18|
Weather delayed the start of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, but the 12 drivers were able to turn laps in Rev Racing's Late Model Stock Cars. Jason Christley/NASCAR