Attitude, drive and passion are critical for success at NASCAR. That was the overarching theme that echoed throughout the seventh-annual Diversity Luncheon Friday, at Daytona International Speedway.
Kyle Larson received the Ignition Award for battling his way into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year after making his NASCAR Nationwide debut at Daytona last February. Larson, a NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) graduate and last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, was among eight recipients honored at the luncheon.
“Award recipients acknowledged today help us embrace the unprecedented opportunities women and diverse individuals are presented with across all disciplines in our industry,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. “We are grateful for the contributions that these individuals and partners are making to our sport.”
Toyota was awarded the Partner Award for its commitment to align its racing program to the overall diversity efforts of NASCAR. In 2014, Toyota is continuing its sponsorship of Rev Racing and the NASCAR D4D program as well as the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series.
Chevrolet Racing's Program Manager for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Alba Colon, became the first female to lead a racing program for an original equipment manufacturer in NASCAR in 2001. Friday, Colon was awarded the Industry Ambassador Award for her support of diversity initiatives and willingness to share her inspiring story with NASCAR fans and newcomers alike.
“My NASCAR family embraces diversity as different thoughts and different ways of thinking,” said Colon. “Diversity is only an asset when it’s combined with will to win, with getting to the track early and doing whatever it takes, and Team Chevy has given me that opportunity.”
Daniel Suarez, a NASCAR D4D and NASCAR Next driver, received the Diverse Driver Award for his success in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series. With more of a strategic approach to racing, the Monterrey, Mexico, driver won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East opener at New Smyrna Speedway on Feb. 16 and the UNOH Battle at the Beach on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.
Eleven-year-old Austin Geer, the Young Driver Award recipient, hopes to follow in Suarez and Larson’s footsteps. Geer recently participated in the 10th annual D4D Combine in October 2013. He currently has 25 victories and more than 60 top-five finishes across four seasons of racing in the series.
While drivers are on the frontline on the race track, pit crew members are teams’ backbone. Dion “Rocko” Williams from Hendrick Motorsports received the Diverse Crew Member Award. Rocko, a former football player at Wake Forest University and in the NFL, enters his 10th season with NASCAR and will continue pitting for Jeff Gordon.
When it comes to sports business curriculums, the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sports Management program led by Dr. Richard Lapchick ranks among the country’s best. The program was honored with the Institution Award for leading graduates to discover how the power of sport can help create a more diverse and inclusive society, and its responsibility to use that power to make a difference.
A recent graduate of Southeastern University, Victoria Garcia received the NASCAR Internship Participant Award for serving as lead producer on several high-profile projects while interning for NASCAR Productions in the summer of 2013.