Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Drive for Diversity names 10 finalists
RADFORD, Va. -- Paul Harraka, the first Drive for Diversity driver to win a race in a NASCAR regional touring division, was one of 10 finalists to emerge Tuesday from two days of tryouts for the 2010 class.
The overhauled diversity program, now in its sixth season, brought 30 candidates to Motor Mile Speedway to compete for 10 spots. Four drivers will eventually earn rides in the Camping World East Series, while the other six will be placed with Whelen All-American teams.
Program operations have been transferred for next year's class to the 909 Group, a sports marketing agency run by Max Siegel, who spent two seasons running Dale Earnhardt Inc. until the team merged with Chip Ganassi Racing late last season. He's created his own team, Revolution Racing, to field cars for all 10 drivers in the 2010 diversity class.
Siegel then formed his agency and partnered with NASCAR to help its struggling diversity program. Since its inception, no participant has competed full time at any of NASCAR's top levels.
Emerging from the two-day tryouts was Harraka, who won two races and rookie of the year this season in the NASCAR Camping World West Series.
The class includes four other 2009 Drive for Diversity participants:
• Mackena Bell, who finished eighth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model standings.
• Michael Cherry, who had 19 top-10s in the Late Model division at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
• Katie Hagar, who set a track qualifying record at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway in the Whelen All-American Series.
• Juan Pitta, who had 12 top fives in the Late Model Division at All-American Speedway.
The newcomers are: Jessica Brunelli of Hayward, Calif., Ryan Gifford of Winchester, Tenn., Rebecca Kasten of Mequon, Wis., Sergio Pena of Catharpin, Va., and Darrell Wallace, Jr. of Mobile, Ala.
Siegel will end the practice of sending the diversity program drivers to teams all over the country, and instead base them all out of Mooresville, N.C.