Former DEI Vice President of Global Operations, Max Siegel is kicking off his new role with NASCAR's Drive for Diversity (D4D).
NASCAR announced today that 12 drivers will take part in the 2009 D4D—four from the NASCAR Camping World Series and eight in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“We are proud of the progress this important initiative and its drivers have made over the past five years,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.
“The expansion to 12 drivers and 11 teams is a great sign of opportunities that continue to be created for young diverse drivers. We look forward to the leadership of Max Siegel and know he will help bring Drive for Diversity to the next level.”
The drive for diversity in NASCAR is in its sixth season, and was designed to give young minority and female drivers an opportunity to break into the sport.
Since 2004, 22 drivers have participated in the program, winning 26 races.
This year, the program was expanded from eight driver to 12.
According to a NASCAR press release, this year's class represents drivers from across the country. Five drivers will return from 2008, while seven new up and comers join them.
According to the release, the eight drivers last year put together 14 wins, 43 top-fives, 90 top-10s and a first ever, a championship.
The champion came out of the Whelen All-American Series. Paul Harraka (who enters 2009 in his fourth year in the program, and is pictured above), took home the title driving for Bill McAnally Racing.
This year, he remains with the team, but moved up to the Camping World East Series.
More than 200 minorities and females applied for the 12 spots, and 25 were named finalists. Those finalists were invited to a try-out at South Boston (Va.) Speedway last October.
Drivers were then selected by their team owners based on their on-track performance and off-track interviews.
The following 12 drivers were selected by their respective team owners to compete in the program in 2009 (Click on each drivers name for a full bio and high-resolution headshot):
• Mackena Bell of Carson City, Nev., will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Position One Motorsports at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. In 2005, Bell became the youngest driver to win a championship in the 42-year history at Champion Speedway in Carson City.
• Kristin Bumbera of Sealy, Texas, returns to the Drive for Diversity Program for the second season and will race in the NASCAR Camping World Series East for Bobby Hamilton Jr. Racing. Bumbera won two races last year at All American Speedway, is the first female to win a Late Model race at Houston Motorsports Park and the first female to lead the point standings in a Texas Late Model series.
• Michael Cherry of Valrico, Fla., will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Addis Motorsports at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway. Cherry was rookie of the year in 2008 at Motor Mile Speedway in the Late Model division and finished fourth in the point standings.
• Jonathon Gomez of Twin Falls, Idaho, will race in the NASCAR Camping World Series West for RTD Motorsports. In 2008, Gomez won a championship, rookie of the year title and 13 races at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls.
• Katie Hagar of Nobleboro, Maine returns to the Drive for Diversity program and will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Golden State Racing at Madera (Calif.) Speedway. Hagar was the first female to win a race at Canaan (N.H.) Fair Speedway.
• Paul Harraka of Fairlawn, N.J., returns to the Drive for Diversity program and will race in the NASCAR Camping World Series West for Bill McAnally Racing. Harraka has 174 career wins, 13 national and six world karting championships and won the 2008 track championship at All American Speedway.
• Laura Hayes of Wilton, Calif., will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for James Racing at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. Hayes has amassed 12 national, state and regional karting titles and over 100 wins.
• Juan Pitta of Galt, Calif., will race for Bill McAnally Racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. Pitta is a seven-time karting champion.
• Megan Reitenour of Miamisburg, Ohio, will race for Leicht Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, N.C. Reitenour is a three-time Ohio state champion in the Bandolero and Legends series.
• Natalie Sather of Fargo, N.D., will race for Total Velocity Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. Sather became the first woman to win a major ASCS trophy in 2007 when she won the Midwest Points Championship.
• Jonathan Smith of Beacon Falls, Conn., returns to the Drive for Diversity program for a third season and will race in the NASCAR Camping World Series East for Fadden Racing, Inc. Last year, Smith finished 19th in the NASCAR Camping World Series East point standings.
• Emily Sue Steck of Holmen, Wis., will race for DMT Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis. Steck received 2007 rookie of the year honors at LaCrosse Fairgrounds along with the most popular driver award. Steck was also awarded the NASCAR Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award.