What better way for Max Siegel, former President of Global Operations for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and now co-owner of Revolution Racing to showcase another Drive for Diversity participant.
The Drive for Diversity program is one of the most aggressive competition based programs for minorities, as well as females drivers to sharpen their racing skills, in hopes of someday making a career in the lucrative world of auto racing.
In the past Drive for Diversity or D4D as it known, has seen 31 of their students go on to win 33 races usually in the NASCAR All-American Whelan Series, which also includes the K&N Pro Series East.
Revolution Racing, which took over the program, requires that their drivers live locally, and also work in the race shop a minimum of 20 hours a week.
Not only are the participants there to prepare themselves for a career in auto racing, but they are also taught the different aspects of the sport from marketing all the way to working on the cars, while getting themselves more comfortable around an overall race setting.
The program itself is having its share of success, and Sergio Pena driver of the No. 4 Freightliner sponsored Chevrolet performance during last weekends K&N Pro Series All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale proved just that.
Pena who earned the right to represent Revolution Racing and the D4D program, made the most of the opportunity by finishing second behind the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup series Rookie of the Year Joey Logano.
“I felt honored driving side by side with Logano," said Pena. Pena also added that, “He is someone that I have looked up to for so long know. One day hopefully I will be up where he is. Its going to take some time and a lot of practice.”
The 16-year-old Winchester, VA native drove the race like a seasoned veteran, while keeping his composure with the close side by side racing that took place from the time the green flag was waved to begin the nights main event.
Pena’s journey started out racing late models at his home track in Shenandoah (VA), before coming over to the D4D Combine, which is a test and evaluation compound for his chance to participate in the program.
In October of 2009, 30 drivers competed four days, for the right to represent the program in a series of events which included on track test sessions in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late models, and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series cars at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, VA.
“Actually I ran late models all last year, but this is my first race in the K&N Pro Series cars. My first time in them was in the Columbine during the test sessions.”
It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon, the day in which the Showdown drivers would begin to make their trek to this small town in Southern California, that Pena would qualify for his chance to race against some of the best up and coming drivers in the country.
Pena beat out four of his D4D K&N Pro Series teammates, and from there he put on a clinic of his own while showing a lot of maturity on the track for a driver at such a young age.
“So we came out four K&N Pro Series East drivers were selected to see who we all ran a race to see who would get the chance to qualify for the race and luckily I came away with the win and it just kept going from there.”
The self-control that he displayed while racing against some the series top stars earned him the praise from not only his fellow competitors, but from the fans was well. Racing against Logano along with the two time winner of the event Matt Kobyluck, is no easy task especially after last years incident when Logano was penalized for rough driving on the last lap.
“I feel so blessed and so lucky to be racing with these guys. I tried to race him as clean as possible, because the less enemies you have the better off that you are,“ said Pena.
Pena’s only weakness was displayed in his restarts which easily gave Logano the upper hand, and Logano took full advantage of them as he easily pulled away after each one.
“Restarts are something I don’t have a lot of experience with but its something that will be my No. 1 priority to work when I get back home,” said Pena.
The media attention that Pena received after becoming the second rookie driver in as many years to take the pole, was likened to last year when Chris Johnson electrified the home town crowd driving the No. 50 unsponsored car for TeamcassRacing, becoming the Showdowns first rookie driver to win the pole.
The poise and the calmness that Pena displayed both on and off the track, was a true testimony of all the hard work that these drivers put into the D4D program, especially with all the cameras that followed his every move throughout the weekend.
The BET reality show Changing Lanes, was on hand filming Pena for one of eight upcoming episodes which will air later on in 2010.
Revolution Racing was chosen because of the D4D program, and the episodes will showcase the development of young Drive for Diversity competitors trying to make it in the big-time world of NASCAR racing.
“We are filming a show called, “Changing lanes” (BET) for the drive for diversity program. They thought it would be really cool to film an episode her at the Toyota All-Star Showdown,” said Pena.
As the weekend slowly came to an end, so did the fanfare that followed this young up and coming NASCAR star.
Ending’s such as these can sometimes be the beginning to bigger and better accomplishments, and all he needs to do is grasp onto the fairy-tale like magic that fell down upon him for this one special weekend and ride it until the wheels fall off.
Pena ferociously took the sword from the hands of the other warriors that he battled for the two plus hours that it took run this All-Star extravaganza, and he made the most of his time in the spotlight while trying to make a name for himself along the way.
“Hopefully the Revolution Racing team made a name for itself and will continue to move forward, and one of the K&N East drivers will win the championship.”
Photo Credit: Sal Sigala Jr.
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