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Diversity Awards Spotlights Industry Efforts

Ten Honorees To Be Recognized For Their Commitment To Multicultural & Diversity
Official Release
February 23, 2017 - 8:00am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – From Daniel Suárez’s historic NASCAR XFINITY Series championship to the efforts from NASCAR tracks, teams, sponsors and partners, the last year represented tremendous progress in the areas of diversity within the sport. 

NASCAR and industry leaders will gather Thursday at the Daytona International Speedway to recognize those leading the efforts in shaping a multicultural sport with the 10th Annual NASCAR Diversity Awards.

“Diversity and multiculturalism is a top priority at NASCAR, and the NASCAR Diversity Awards is a great event to honor all those from across our industry who are making tremendous strides in this area,” said NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France. “As we continue to see more diversity on the track, in the boardroom and in the stands, we will see a rise in talent and we will appeal to an even wider fan base.  We want to thank our stakeholders and partners for their dedication to the continued growth of our sport.”

The NASCAR Diversity Awards will stream live on FansChoice.tv, beginning at 11 a.m.

To be recognized for their outstanding achievements will be:

• Daniel Suarez will receive the NASCAR Ignition Award, given to a minority or female NASCAR national series driver that demonstrates leadership both on and off the race track while making contributions to the advancement of the sport. In addition to being the first Mexican-born driver to win a race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and becoming first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR national series championship, Suarez has been active away from the track in reaching new young and diverse fans.

• Jesse Iwuji will be given the NASCAR Diverse Driver Award, given to a minority or female NASCAR developmental driver that exemplifies outstanding performance both on and off the race track in encouraging awareness and interaction with NASCAR and motorsports. A graduate of the Naval Academy and a first-generation Nigerian-American, Iwuji has has taken NASCAR directly to the community, whether it’s raising Naval recruitment efforts, STEM education or support of NASCAR Green efforts at a local California school.

• Peri Karslioglu will receive the NASCAR Diversity Internship Participant Award, presented to the student who has exhibited outstanding performance and leadership skills in academics as well as during their experience in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program. Karslioglu is a cum laude graduate of Syracuse University and interned with The NASCAR Foundation last year. Karslioglu impressed with her fresh perspective on social media and, industry engagement and marketing efforts, landing a full-time position with the Foundation as a marketing coordinator.

• ALPFA – the Association of Latino Professionals For America, will be presented the NASCAR Institution Award, which goes to a company that demonstrates a commitment to NASCAR diversity and inclusion goals through its program support and engagement with NASCAR. ALPFA has worked closely with NASCAR since 2014 to promote business-to-business efforts throughout the motorsports industry. Through exclusive events and at-track immersions, ALPFA has led the way in increasing Latino participation in key NASCAR programs.

• Hailie Deegan will be awarded the Young Racer Award, presented to a minority or female youth between the ages of 8-15 years old that has partaken in some form of competitive racing and has overcome adversity in pursuit of his or her dream of participating in the motorsports industry. The 15-year-old from Temecula, California, Deegan competed in 2016 for Rev Racing in a Legends car in the Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway and was one of the youngest drivers to earn an invitation to the 2016 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine.

• Smithfield will receive the NASCAR Partner Award, given to a company that demonstrates a commitment to NASCAR diversity goals through its program support and engagement. With goals of making better communities throughout our county, Smithfield’s sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) and driver Aric Almirola has amplified its outreach efforts and created a difference-making partnership. Last year, Smithfield and RPM partnered for school events in California and Illinois to promote staying in school, working directly with schools with a high-percentage of Hispanic and low-income students.

• Kenyatta Houston will be presented the NASCAR Diverse Crew Member Award. The award goes to a minority or woman crew member that inspires awareness of NASCAR through competitive performance and outreach activities. A former football player and 2005 graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew program, Houston has been to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series. Outside the race track, Houston continues to give back to the community – from helping the Drive for Diversity Pit Crew program to train the next generation of crew members to volunteering with Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity and Mooresville Christian Mission.

• Pocono Raceway will be presented the NASCAR Track Award. The award goes to a track that identified and activated programming geared toward engaging a multicultural fan base by utilizing staff, community outreach and track assets. The “Tricky Triangle” has made significant efforts to reach out to an increasingly diverse population in the Poconos. Last year, it added a Spanish-language promotion for its NASCAR XFINITY Series race and included a video spotlighting NASCAR Diversity intern Antonio Russo as part of its overall activation to highlight family participation.

• Patriot Motorsports/Circle Track Racing will receive the NASCAR Team Award. The award goes to a team that engaged driver, OEM and sponsor support to effectively reach fans on and off the track in support of NASCAR’s diversity and inclusion goals. Circle Track Racing, owned by John Wood, a driver himself, has provided an opportunity for drivers to gain valuable seat time and experience. Wood and driver Jesse Iwuiji’s Patriot Motorsports are actively involved in self-funded promotion and activation around the race weekends and have continued to go above and beyond in driving awareness to a young and diverse audience.

• Josh Avila will be recognized with the Industry Ambassador Award. The award spotlights a representative who displays a personal effort to incorporate multicultural initiatives as part of his or her job. Avila has made the track’s multicultural initiatives a major focus for the last decade. Josh has built meaningful relationships with the Hispanic community and his successes have profound impact beyond his track. He spearheaded the first Spanish language section of the FanZone, incorporated Mexican celebrities and drivers into the track’s events and media outreach, and has worked to expand the track’s engagement with the Asian market.

The NASCAR national series championship season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night with the NextEra Energy Resources 250 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, followed by Saturday’s Powershares QQQ 300 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The 59th running of the DAYTONA 500 will be Sunday, with the green flag for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season at 2 p.m. ET, live on FOX, Motor Racing Network Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

Tickets for the Daytona 500 are available online at DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.