NEW SMYRNA, Fla. — Heavy rains overnight and throughout the morning combined with track conditions in the afternoon to wash out day three of the 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Honda Generators.
The 12 participants competing for a spot on the 2018 Rev Racing roster were slated to take laps in the team’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series cars. The early end to the session, however, did not adversely affect the evaluation process.
Drivers took part in media and physical assessment at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona on Monday, and each of them got two sessions in a Late Model Stock Car Tuesday at New Smyrna Speedway.
“This has been probably our most talented group of drivers we’ve brought to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR manager of racing operations & event management. “Each driver really stepped up both off the track and on the track. We had two great days of evaluation.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get on track on the third day, but based on the body of work we’ve seen, we feel we’re at a point to make a decision on who we’re going select for next year.”
The first two days were comparable to the experience of previous NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combines. The additional day of testing, in the K&N Pro Series cars, was scheduled to be a new addition this season to provide another layer of data; until inclement weather changed those plans.
As part of the evolution of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, though, the enhanced focus the overall driver profile means Monday’s off-track evaluations will factor more into the 2018 roster than in the past. The team is also looking at increase in seat time to ramp up the competition next season.
To that end, a smaller pool of 12 participants were invited to the tryout, out of which four will be selected for the 2018 Rev Racing team. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totaling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.
It also meant that current Rev Racing drivers who were invited were also part of the on-track testing, which was new this year.
One of those drivers looking to reclaim a spot with Rev Racing is Ruben Garcia Jr. The 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion, Garcia has driven for Rev Racing in the K&N Pro Series each of the last two years. He finished fifth in the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship points.
“Seat time, especially for those of us trying to get up in the ranks, is the most important thing,” said Garcia. “I think it’s a great step for the program. I’m actually really, really excited and hoping I can get back into the program to be able to get that seat time. I think it’s a great, great opportunity for us.”
Garcia is one of two drivers from the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series who were invited to the combine. He was joined in New Smyrna by Fabian Welter, as they look to follow in the path paved by 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez, who got his start in NASCAR Mexico. Welter has already clinched the championship for the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Challenge Series — the second level for NASCAR in Mexico — with a race remaining.
“The base is very similar,” said Garcia when asked to compare the K&N Pro cars to the ones in Mexico. “A K&N car is kind of like a NASCAR Mexico car on steroids: It’s bigger, heavier, way more horsepower. It has more variables set-up wise, so more things you need to think about while you’re practicing.”
For a driver, though, Garcia said, they still have one important thing in common: “They’re still stock cars with a V8 engine.”