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Once ruled by drivers from the Southeast U.S., NASCAR has branched out in recent years to include Asian-American drivers, African-American drivers and even, wait for it, female drivers. Moreover, those drivers are talented and skillful behind the wheel and have been impressing veteran drivers with their tenacity and their victories. Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson, winners in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series, respectively, are also both graduates of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity (D4D) program.
Founded in 2004 and celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the D4D program has supported more than 30 drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Its sole purpose is to provide minority and female drivers the opportunity to compete with a NASCAR team. They're succeeding admirably.
This past November, NASCAR received the 2013 Diversity and Inclusion Award for "its efforts in fostering diversity throughout the sport." In the days that followed the award ceremony, Larson became the first Asian-American driver to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award in any of the NASCAR national series. At the seventh annual Diversity Luncheon at Daytona International Speedway, Larson was honored in February 2014 with the Ignition Award, which recognized his push to join the Cup Series following his Nationwide debut in 2012. Larson and seven other recipients were honored at the luncheon.
Marcus Jadotte, who has recently resigned his position as NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development, said, "Award recipients acknowledged [at the luncheon] help us embrace the unprecedented opportunities women and diverse individuals are presented with across all disciplines in our industry. We are grateful for the contributions that these individuals and partners are making to our sport."
Jadotte will continue to serve as a consultant to NASCAR as the organization continues to expand its diversity and multicultural initiatives. Of the work accomplished under his direction, Jadotte asserts, "I am proud of the progress we made and know the stage has been set for much more." The program will continue under the direction of Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations.
The current D4D class includes drivers from 14 different states and Mexico. The program seeks "marketable minority and female drivers with racing experience at the grassroots level." For more information or to apply to the D4D, visit www.nascardiversity.com