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NASCAR Drive for Diversity program announces 2019 class

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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).”

NASCAR announces 12 invitees to Drive for Diversity combine

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NASCAR announced the 12 drivers invited to compete for the 2019 Drive for Diversity program on Monday. The dozen drivers have competed on three continents in a variety of racecars.

“The drivers invited to this year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Combine represent a wide range of diverse backgrounds, both in terms of heritage and driving disciplines,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager of racing operations and event management in a press release. “The combine has been tremendous in helping the NASCAR industry identify and develop top diverse talent and this year is no different.”

Rev Racing serves as the on-track partner for the Drive for Diversity program. Since the inception of the program, Rev Racing has earned 19 wins, 88 top fives and 186 top-10 finishes.

The combine will help set their lineup in 2019.

“As we embark upon our 11th year managing the Drive for Diversity program in partnership with NASCAR, we couldn’t be more excited about the evolution of our driver development program,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “Through selection process and training program we look forward to selecting and developing some of NASCAR’s brightest stars.”

In addition to testing their skill behind the wheel of a racecar, candidates will undergo a physical fitness assessment as well as tests to determine their ability to effective communicate and market sponsors.

This year’s combine invitees include Ruben Garcia Jr. – current points leader in the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series.

Trans Am standout Ernie Francis Jr. will also compete. He has scored four wins in this series in 2018 and currently leads the series standings

Chase Cabre, Juan Manuel González, Loris Hezemans, Perry Patino, Nick Sanchez, Brooke Storer, Ryu Taggart, Gracie Trotter, Ryan Vargas and Brittney Zamora round out the list.

Zamora became the first female driver to win the Northwest Super Late Model Series Championship in 2017.

These hopefuls look to follow in the footsteps of Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace – all of whom have gone through the program.

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Ruben Garcia Jr. gets ‘stress relief’ from first K&N Pro Series East win

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With about 15 laps left in Saturday’s K&N Pro Series East race at Memphis International Raceway (airing at 6 p.m. ET today on NBCSN), Ruben Garcia Jr.‘s spotter came over his radio.

“Hey, just keep running the same speed you’re running,” Garica recalls him saying. “Second place is trying really hard to catch you and he’s not getting any closer. You’re fine.”

If Garcia, who was leading over pole-sitter Tyler Ankrum, made it to the checkered flag unscathed, it would be a huge moment for the 22-year-old driver.

It would his first win in the K&N East after three years and 34 starts of trying and he’d become the fourth Mexican-born driver to win in the series, following Daniel Suarez (2014), Rogelio Lopez (2007) and Ruben Pardo (2006). It would also be his first race win outside Mexico.

That final race stretch “felt like the longest laps of my life” Garcia told NBC Sports.

Minutes after taking the checkered flag and the win, Garcia was looking into his girlfriend Regina’s phone.

Via FaceTime, Garcia spoke with his family back in Mexico, who had followed along with the race on Twitter over dinner.

Among them was his father, who like Garcia, competed in the NASCAR Mexico Series.

Saturday’s race was the first this year he hadn’t attended.

“He was very very, excited,” Garcia said. “It has been a long time since I’ve seen him that happy.”

He’ll get to see his father for the first time this weekend after he competes in the NASCAR Mexico race in Guadalajara.

Garcia, who competes for Rev Racing, called his win in Memphis a form of “stress relief” after more than two seasons of futility.

“We were really close,” Garcia said. “I knew it was coming, but one thing or the other it didn’t happen. I tried to be as patient as I could. … It felt like it took too long. Everyone says the first win is the hardest. After that you have enough confidence to know that you can do it again.”

All three other Mexican-born drivers to win in the K&N Series are well known to Garcia and reached out to him in the days following his victory.

“I know Daniel, I’ve raced with him,” Garcia said. “I know Ruben Pardo, I’m still running against him. I know Rogelio Lopez, he’s a really, really good friend of mine and of my family. We were teammates last year. We’re very close to each other. The three of them called me just to congratulate me. It’s really cool for me because they know what it means, they know what I’m feeling right now and how it felt to take the checkered flag for the first time outside your country.”

 

NASCAR announces 2018 Drive for Diversity class

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NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity class for 2018 will feature six drivers.

Ruben Garcia Jr. will be back for a third season. He will be joined by Chase Cabre, Ernie Francis Jr., Nick Sanchez, Ryan Vargas and Isabella Robusto.

“We are thrilled with the level of talent that applied for the program, were invited to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine and, ultimately, the six who were selected to drive for Rev Racing in 2018,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing, in a statement. “As we’ve seen the program evolve over the years and produce wins and champions, and help elevate drivers such as Daniel Suárez, Kyle Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr. to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, these drivers have the ability and potential to carry that legacy forward.”

The new class:

       • Chase Cabre, 20, Tampa, Florida. Cabre finished sixth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings and was runner-up for Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award twice and recorded four top-five finishes. He will return to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and will also race a Late Model in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

       • Ernie Francis Jr., 19, Dania, Florida. Francis has already locked up his fourth Trans Am Series championship, becoming the youngest driver in series history to do so. He has 32 Trans Am Series wins – the most in series history – and 15 Pirelli World Challenge victories. Francis will be a development driver with Rev Racing, running road-course events in the K&N Pro Series East and select Late Model events, as well as testing, as he transitions to oval-track racing. 

  • Rubén García Jr., 21, Mexico City, Mexico. García will return to Rev Racing for his third season. The 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion finished fifth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year and is third in the PEAK Mexico Series standings with one race remaining. The NASCAR Next graduate will join Cabre in the K&N Pro East in addition to racing in the Late Model.

      • Nick Sanchez, 16, Homestead, Florida. Sanchez finished fifth in the 10-race Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Rev Racing’s Legends Car program last year, and will move up to the team’s full-time Late Model in 2018. Sanchez had a win among five podium finishes in the Summer Shootout.

      • Ryan Vargas, 17, La Mirada, California. Vargas won the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2016 as the highest finishing multicultural or female driver in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I. He was runner-up for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Josten’s Rookie of the Year for California in 2016 while racing at Irwindale and Bakersfield’s Kern County Raceway Park and the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This season, he scored a pair of wins to finish third in the state standings and 16th in the national standings. Vargas will drive in the third full-time K&N Pro Series East car and also race in the Late Model. 

      • Isabella Robusto, 13, Fort Mill, South Carolina. Robusto will anchor Rev Racing’s Youth Driver Program as she returns to the team to drive in the Legends car. Robusto will be one of four youth development drivers, with the remaining three to be announced at a later date. She was third overall at the Bandolero Winter Nationals and was the South Carolina Legends Young Lions champion in 2016 and was third overall in points in the Bojangles Summer Shootout Series in 2015.

NASCAR Drive for Diversity aligns drivers with a team of executives, athletic directors, crew chiefs and mentors tasked with helping them achieve career successes, and thus improving their goal of reaching one of the three NASCAR national series.

Harrison Burton claims K&N Pro Series East championship with Dover win

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DOVER, Delaware — Harrison Burton pulled away from Riley Herbst on an overtime restart to win Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and the series championship. 

Burton led the final 17 laps at Dover, taking the lead from Ruben Garcia Jr. in a spirited side-by-side duel that went more than two laps. Burton then held the field off in overtime, which extended the race three laps to 128 laps.

The victory marked Burton’s fifth of the season. Eddie MacDonald finished second. Tyler Dippel was third.

Burton, the 16-year-old son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, is the youngest champion in series history. Joey Logano had been the youngest series champion at 17 when he won the 2007 title.

In victory lane, Burton embraced his mother, Kim, lifting her off the ground, and then hugged his father.

“We’re a racing family,” Harrison Burton said. “To share a championship with the people that love you the most is pretty cool.”

Burton entered the season finale eight points behind Todd Gilliland but Gilliland’s title hopes went away when he blew a right front tire and hit the wall on Lap 56 of the 128-lap race. He finished 13th in the 15-car field.

“It was kind of tight, but I just went in there and the right front just blew,” Gilliland said. “It just popped. I could hear it. It’s basically been our season story. Been running up front and had tires go down. It took us out of the first half of the season. In the last seven races, we finished first or second in all of them and really got us back in this thing. For it to end like this is heartbreaking. We’ll have to move on and I learned a lot this year.”

The 17-year-old son of former Cup driver David Gilliland sought the K&N Pro Series East title after winning the K&N Pro Series West championship last year. Todd Gilliland finishes the season with four wins.

Todd Gilliland’s focus turns to the Camping World Truck Series. He’s run four races this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, finishing a season-best third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Former K&N Pro Series East champions include William Byron (2015), Kyle Larson (2012) and Logano.

Now add Harrison Burton.

“It’s a good list to be on,” he said. “To be a champion is huge for me.”

This race will air on NBCSN at 10:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 6.

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