The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program announced its 2019 class with Rev Racing Thursday.
The six-member class includes four returning members.
Gracie Trotter and Brooke Storer are the new members.
The six drivers were selected from 12 national and international drivers invited to participate in the two-day NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Combine at New Smyrna Speedway and Bethune-Cookman University in October.
The drivers will compete for Rev Racing in the K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for one full season with mentoring and equipment provided by the race team.
Since Rev Racing began fielding cars for the Drive for Diversity program in the K&N East in 2010, it has earned 19 wins, 88 top fives and 199 top-10 finishes with drivers finishing in the top 10 in points each season.
Here’s the 2019 class.
Chase Cabre, 21, Tampa, Florida – Cabre will return to Rev Racing for his third season. In 2018, he competed in both the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he finished seventh in the championship standings. Cabre will again compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2019.
Ernie Francis Jr., 20, Southwest Ranches, Florida – In 2014, Francis Jr. became the youngest Trans-Am champion in series history. This past season, he captured his fifth consecutive series championship title. Francis will race a Late Model for Rev Racing and run in select events in the K&N Pro Series East.
Rubén García Jr., 23, México City, México – In 2015, García Jr. became the youngest driver to win the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series Championship. He won his second championship this year in the series. García Jr. also earned his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race win at Memphis International Raceway in 2018 followed with a victory at Dover International Speedway in October. García Jr. will continue racing in the K&N Pro East Series.
Nick Sanchez,17, Homestead, Florida – Sanchez completed his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rookie season in 2018. He also raced in the Bojangles Summer Shootout with Rev Racing’s Legends Car program and finished sixth in championship points. Sanchez will race in a Late Model for Rev Racing.
Brooke Storer, 20, Land O’ Lakes, Florida – Storer is the 2016 Desoto Speedway Sportsman Champion. This past season, she raced in the Wheel Man Series Late Model Sportsman division capturing two 50-lap feature wins. In 2017, she placed third in points in the Wheel Man Series. Storer will race a Late Model for Rev Racing in 2019.
Gracie Trotter, 17, Denver, North Carolina – Trotter is the winner of Round 5 of the Bojangles Summer Shootout in the Semi Pro division. In 2018 she competed in the CARS Tour & PASS Series at Concord, Hickory, Caraway, Orange Country, South Boston and Carteret County. She also raced USLCI Legend cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, Anderson, Tri-County and Caraway. Trotter will race a Late Model for Rev Racing in 2019.
Ryan Vargas, who did not make the Rev Racing lineup after being with the program last year, expressed his thanks to the team and wrote that “I apologize to everyone who’s supported me. I feel as if I let you all down (by not making the team for 2019).”
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will race 13 times in 2019, including six times on tracks that also run NASCAR Cup races.
The season begins Feb. 10 at New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway and ends Oct. 4 at Dover International Speedway.
South Boston (Virginia) Speedway will host twin 100-lap features on May 4, the second consecutive year the .400-mile track has done so. Thompson (Connecticut) Speedway will host the third annual NASCAR Throwback with the K&N Series on June 15.
The East Series will go head-to-head twice with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – July 26 at Iowa Speedway and Aug. 24 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois.
2019 K&N Pro Series East Schedule
Feb. 10 – New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway
April 6 – Bristol Motor Speedway
May 4 – South Boston (Virginia) Speedway *
June 1 – Memphis International Raceway
June 15 – Thompson (Connecticut) Speedway Motorsports Park
July 20 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 26 – Iowa Speedway
Aug. 2 – Watkins Glen International
Aug. 15 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Aug. 24 – Gateway Motorsports Park (Madison, Illinois)
Sept. 21 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Oct. 4 – Dover International Speedway
Twin 100-lap races
K&N Series to hold doubleheaders with IndyCar, World of Outlaws
NASCAR K&N Pro Series teams will take part for the first time in doubleheaders with the World of Outlaws and IndyCar Series next year.
The first doubleheader, with the World of Outlaws, will take place Feb. 27 – 28 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. It serves as a lead-in for the tripleheader weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for NASCAR’s three national series.
The World of Outlaws will compete on the LVMS Dirt Track on both days of the doubleheader, holding its FVP Platinum Battery Outlaw Showdown presented by Star Nursery.
The K&N Pro Series West will hold its second race on the half-mile dirt track on Feb. 28.
The 2018 Star Nursery 100, won by Sheldon Creed, marked the first K&N Pro Series race on a dirt track since 1979.
The LVMS Dirt Track has hosted World of Outlaws events since 1996 and has held double features every spring since 2013.
The doubleheader with IndyCar will take place Aug. 24 at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis.
The K&N event is a combined race with West and East teams and is the second K&N race at the 1.25-mile track after the series debuted there this year.
IndyCar will hold its third consecutive race at Gateway after returning to the track in 2017.
The K&N/IndyCar weekend is the second doubleheader the track will host in 2019.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series will visit on June 22.
While the 30-year-old spends his weekends competing in the K&N Pro Series West and East and in ARCA, he also has to make time for his duties as a reserve officer in the United States Navy with the rank of Lieutenant.
He drives the No. 36 owned by Patriot Motorsports Group and former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman.
“I try to be more than a driver, I have to be an ambassador,” Iwuji told NBC Sports. “I represent the folks in the military and people out there with big goals and dreams. Hopefully with this journey I can show people that it is definitely possible.”
Iwuji, a native of Carrollton, Texas, is the son of two Nigerian immigrants who moved to Texas in the 1980s.
Iwuji, who was on active duty from 2010 – 2017, has competed in NASCAR since 2015 and has 38 combined starts in the K&N East and West.
He caught the racing bug during his Navy deployment when he visited drag strips and road courses to take part in open tracks days with his own car. After telling a man he met at a car show about all his track activity, he suggested to Iwuji that he should look into NASCAR.
“I am African-American and there’s really not a lot of African-Americans in the sport right now,” Iwuji said. “But I see more coming, I think more will come as we all kind of pave the way right now and show NASCAR is open to all races, all genders, you name it. It’s not closed to anyone. If you want to race, grab a helmet, grab a suite, get on the right team and you can make it.”
Watch the above video for more.
Iwuji doesn’t have to be in his military uniform to help people.
Last weekend, he kept a family of four out of danger when he noticed a fire underneath their car while driving down a highway. After getting them to pull them over, he got them out out of the car before it was engulfed in flames.
Safety safety safety guys and girls. I saw a small little fire underneath this family of 4’s van and I knew right then it was about to be bad news. I’m glad I stopped and got them away because they were still worried about getting stuff out the car. Things went from small to bad pic.twitter.com/av6C7j76Nd
The daughter of action sports star Brian Deegan and a mother whose “full-time job” is taking her to races, Hailie is a Southern California native who came to NASCAR from off-road racing. She listens to rap and hip hop.
Rodgers, whose father owns a brewery and his mother is a clinical social worker, was born in Hawaii and has competed in sports cars, motocross and off-road racing. He listens to classic rock and punk rock.
Hailie Deegan has a brief audio recording that she’s listened to a handful of times.
It was recorded minutes after the conclusion of her K&N Pro Series West debut on March 15 at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California.
The recording is of her father, Brian Deegan, talking to Harvick, who was fresh from finishing fourth in the race.
The 2014 Cup champion told Brian Deegan he was impressed by his daughter’s performance. She finished seventh in the 175-lap race after starting eighth. Harvick said he’d keep in touch with them.
“He still does to this day, which is really cool,” Deegan told NBC Sports. “He always asks how I’m doing at the track, how I am doing compared to the other competitors, which is really cool on a personal level and I think that it was just something that’s not a confidence booster but a motivator.”
The day after the Kern County race, Harvick was asked at Auto Club Speedway what driving talent he’d discovered in the race.
“I think as far as potential and reach and racing knowledge and getting in the car as young as she is, that would be the one I would pluck out of the series and say that’s the one we want to be a part of,” Harvick said.
Since then Harvick has had Deegan on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hours,” she’s graduated from high school and earned her first two top fives on May 19 at Orange Show Speedway and June 9 at Colorado National Speedway. She’s seventh in points through five races.
Harvick reaffirmed his praise of her after he won last month’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I think Brian is really good for her because of the fact she just needs to go race and learn the ins‑and‑outs, get with the right situations as she moves up, not move too fast,” Harvick said. “She has the most potential of a female racer because she gets it. She’s very into what she’s doing. It’s not about everything else. It’s really about the race car and ‘How do I drive it faster?’ She’s just got her stuff together.”
As the only woman in the NASCAR Next program, which highlights up and coming drivers in stock car racing, Deegan recognizes that NASCAR is a sport in search of “something unique” to build its future on.
“I know they’re looking and searching for these aspects of, their fan base right now is all these people, these older generations and right now they’re looking for the new, hip generation of kids and teens coming up,” Deegan said. “The NASCAR Next program kind of plucks those kids out and sees these people with personalities and (who) want it that bad and are willing to do the off-track work, and I think that’s what NASCAR needs right now.”
Does Deegan consider herself hip?
“I don’t know if I consider myself hip, but I consider myself different.”
For Rodgers, the most surreal moment of last June’s K&N West race at Sonoma Raceway was when spotter Rick Carelli came over the radio in the closing laps.
“Third place is nowhere to be found,” Rodgers recalls Carelli saying.
It was just Rodgers and the leader.
The leader was Harvick, who was making his first start in the series since 2007.
“Oh my gosh, we’re running toe-to-toe with a Cup champion right now,” Rodgers thought at the moment.
The race, essentially at Rodgers’ home track, was the one his team “had been building up to all year.”
He qualified on the pole. Harvick started sixth.
“Now if you had told me I would race toe-to-toe with Kevin Harvick all day, that might have been a scenario again where I wouldn’t have believed you,” Rodgers said.
Harvick won the race, but he made sure to bring attention to Rodgers, who like Deegan, he had as a guest on his radio show.
“Being able to race toe-to-toe with Kevin and pull away from everybody else in the field and then for him to get out of the car and rave about me was very unique,” Rodgers said. “I’d say that’s definitely the best second place I’ll probably ever get.”
Harvick then went out of his way to celebrate with Rodgers in victory lane two months later when Rodgers earned his first career win in the K&N East race at Watkins Glen.
“Whether or not Kevin has a hand in (NASCAR Next) personally, just by him being an advocate for me and then voicing me to the media, that has really opened the eyes and ears of a lot of people within NASCAR, within the industry, sponsors,” Rodgers said. “It’s helped on many levels. … My credibility has just been elevated so high after he said those things.”
This season Rodgers has competed in four of the first five K&N East races, earning two top 10s. He’s also earned two top 10s in four ARCA starts racing for Ken Schrader.
Harvick expects Rodgers to continue to rise if given the opportunity, especially when it comes to road course racing.
“I don’t think anybody would have known WillRogers‘ name if we hadn’t run the K&N West Series race last year,” Harvick said after his All-Star win. “He’s got his stuff together. He just needs an opportunity to come out and show what he’s got. When the road course stuff shows up, Will is probably capable of being in an Xfinity race or a Cup race. In the right equipment on a road course, he’d be a top-10 competitor.”
Harvick has only competed in two K&N races in the last year, but each one has benefited someone else.
“It’s interesting to see,” Harvick said. “That’s really been our goal running the K&N races, is to expose those drivers to get opportunities. Just glad that it’s working out for a couple of them.”