Twenty drivers arrived in Hampton, Virginia, eager to show off their driving skills at the 2013 Drive For Diversity Combine. First, though, they were put through the paces Monday with the equally important off-track assessments at Hampton University.
This is the third year the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program—created in 2004 and now executed by Rev Racing—has partnered with Hampton. The NASCAR D4D program is designed to identify and train young female and diverse drivers at the grassroots level who demonstrate necessary talent to climb the ranks within the motorsport industries.
The drivers, who represent 12 US states and Mexico and come from a wide array of racing experience, took part in physical training assessment as well as driver evaluation on Rev Racing’s iRacing simulators Monday.
Additionally, the program’s partnership with Hampton includes presentations to the drivers by Dr. David Hunter from the university’s department of kinesiology today, and by Dr. Kwame M. Brown on sports psychology Wednesday.
“All of the drivers in this combine are going to come away from this experience better prepared as drivers,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. “In addition to gaining valuable seat time and direction from some of the leading officials in the sport, they’re also going to better understand the physical training that’s required to be successful in the sport.
“There really are no losers. One group—the group that’s selected—will obviously have an opportunity to race with Rev Racing. Those who aren’t selected will come away from this experience as better drivers.”
The iRacing allowed many of the drivers to get their first look at Langley Speedway, the .4-mile asphalt oval at which they will test Late Model Stock Cars on today.
Phil Horton, Rev Racing’s Director of Athletic Performance, ran the candidates through a battery of tests in Hampton’s fitness center. Horton, who worked in the NBA before breaking into NASCAR in 1998 as Ernie Irvan’s trainer, has worked with a number of top drivers in the sport over the years. He’s seen the emphasis on physical fitness and conditioning rise in prominence at all levels, to the benefit of the competitors.
“One of the things about being fit as a driver in NASCAR is how it relates to your concentration,” said Horton. “Some drivers like to lift weights. Some drivers like to run marathons. Bottom line, your body has to be fit to carry out the task that you’re trying to be successful at.
“When the cars are 130 degrees and you’re on the last laps, you really need to be able to concentrate on driving and not how you feel, how your body’s reacting and how you’re dehydrated. Physical fitness is one of the most important things you have to be able to concentrate on and win a race.”