Drive for Diversity Gets
on Track in South Boston
October 16, 2006 ~ Press Release ~ To See Original Article>>NASCARWeeklySeries.com
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. — Nineteen
aspiring NASCAR drivers put their best foot forward Monday at South Boston (Va.)
Speedway, as the Drive for Diversity testing and evaluation combine got
underway. Drivers were evaluated during an all-day test session at the famous
short track, in hopes of securing an opportunity to race with the ethnic and
gender minority driver development program in 2007.
The drivers each spent 30 minutes on the track, in NASCAR Grand National
Division cars prepared by veteran driver and team owner Jeff Spraker. The
program, now entering its fourth year, will pair eight drivers with car owners
and sponsors in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series and the NASCAR Grand National
Division next season.
Greg Calhoun, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Access Marketing and Communications,
which operates the Drive for Diversity program, says this week’s on-track tryout
is an important test, but the emphasis is on the big picture – the future.
“We started the program in 2003 and to date, I think we’ve had a lot of success
stories,” said Calhoun. “We’re real optimistic about what the future entails.”
The future for many of these drivers began Monday at South Boston. Each driver
received coaching during their on-track session from Spraker and his crew
members, along with inaugural Drive for Diversity participant Morty Buckles and
former South Boston Speedway track champion Frank Deiny Jr.
Paul Harraka of Fairlawn, N.J., and Mike Gallegos, of Wheat Ridge, Colo., posted
two of the day’s fastest lap times. Harraka circled the 4/10-mile oval in 15.868
seconds (90.74 mph) while Gallegos’ fastest lap of the day was 16.005 seconds
(89.97 mph). To put these speeds in perspective, the South Boston Speedway track
qualifying record for NASCAR Busch Series cars, which are similar to the NASCAR
Grand National Division cars used Monday, is 15.245 seconds (94.457 mph) set by
Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1998.
For all the drivers, Monday was a learning experience they won’t soon forget.
Gallegos raced under the program in 2005 and spent the 2006 season with his own
team in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series. Monday’s event was a
pressure-packed session, under the watchful eyes of several notable race teams,
but Gallegos said his competitive spirit is strong under any circumstances.
“I race because I’m a very competitive person,” said Gallegos. “Racing allows me
to put myself up against the other drivers on the track and see what I can do
with my natural talent. It’s just a great deal to be a part of.”
Brianne Cronrath, a Pennsylvania native now residing in North Carolina, is
another previous Drive for Diversity participant and feels she is on equal
footing with other drivers.
“[Racing] is my love. This is all I want to do,” said Cronrath. “I feel like
girls can go anything that guys can do, so I don’t feel any different being
Off the track, the drivers participated in media training session and also spent
time with their prospective team owners. In the end, it was all about
California native Jesus Hernandez, who raced with the Drive for Diversity
program at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2006, said his goal is to keep
“I hope to continue to develop my skills and talents – and move forward,” said
Tracey Chambers of Timberlake, N.C., went through the combine in 2005 but was
not selected to participate in 2006. Undeterred, Chambers returned this year
with a positive outlook. “This time around, I hope to be able to show my skills
a little better, get on the track and be consistent and smooth,” said Chambers,
who races at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C. “I’ve been racing Late
Models for the past three years and I’ve been around racing all of my life. I am
hoping to be smooth and learn how to drive these [Grand National] cars.”
Ashley Parlett, a Maryland native who relocated to North Carolina to pursue her
racing career, said she hopes to put her stock car skills to use by trying out
for the Drive for Diversity program.
“I’m hoping that I can get a chance to shine and display what I’ve learned the
past two years,” said Parlett.
Other participating drivers included Chris Bristol of Columbus, Ohio; Michael
Cherry of Valrico, Fla.; Bryan Driver of Pennington, N.J.; Katie Hagar of
Nobleboro, Me.; Destiney Hays of View Lane, Calif.; Jessica Helberg of Petaluma,
Calif.; Peter Hernandez of Blue Island, Ill.; Danny Martin Jr. of Sarasota,
Fla.; Candace Muzny of Oklahoma City, Okla.; Alison Quick of Redding, Calif.;
Molly Rhoads of Hastings, Minn.; and Jonathan Smith of Beacon Falls, Conn.
Weather permitting, the drivers will return to South Boston Speedway for another
round of tests on Tuesday.
About Drive for Diversity (Access Marketing & Communications)
Drive for Diversity® is a diverse driver and crew member development program
created and managed by Access Marketing & Communications, a Charlotte-based
multicultural marketing firm founded in 2003. In 2006, the program supported
eight drivers in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series and 12 crew members in the
NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Drive for Diversity® is
an initial step in a long-term solution to diversify NASCAR’s participant and