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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR celebrated the outstanding achievements of ground-breaking individuals and organizations in the area of diversity at the fifth annual NASCAR Diversity Awards Luncheon Wednesday.
"NASCAR, its teams, tracks, sponsors and industry stakeholders are committed to diversity throughout the sport," said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. "Coming together to acknowledge the outstanding work of these individuals and organizations gives us the opportunity to heighten awareness of the strides that are being made in the sport.”
At a ceremony held at The Daytona 500 Club at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR recognized the following individuals and organizations across the industry for their outstanding impact:
NASCAR Drive for Diversity Participant: Darrell Wallace Jr.
Wallace, 18, who lives in Concord, N.C., started racing when he was nine years old and has found plenty of success along the way. In 2005, Wallace’s first year of INEX Bandolero division competition, he won 35 of 48 races. The next year he moved up to INEX Legends cars, winning 11 races. He won his first late model race at Franklin County Speedway (Callaway, Va.) in 2008. At just 14, he became the youngest competitor to win a late model race at the historic speedway. Before late models, he raced karts, bandoleros and legend cars, often dominating the competition. In 2009, Wallace was named a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. With support from JGR, he competed with his family-operated team in a number of late model events throughout the Southeast. Darrell was a participant in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program in 2009 and 2010 competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. In 2010, Darrell became the youngest and first African American to win in the K&N Pro Series with his win at Greensville Pickens and scored a second win in New Hampshire to earn the Rookie of the Year Award. Darrell followed up his rookie season with a second-place finish in the K&N Pro Series East standings, winning races in Richmond, Columbus and Dover.
Young Racer Award: Walter Thomas III
Walter Thomas III, 13, is an Indianapolis, Ind., native. Walter’s young racing career began at four years old when he started racing quarter midgets followed by three years in junior dragsters. For the past two years, he has raced in bandoleros where he scored a win in a national qualifier as well as becoming the first African American to win the Outlaw Track Championship at Indianapolis Speedrome. Walter finished 2011 in a legends car where he will continue his racing career this season. Walter’s success and work ethic extends into the classroom, where he is an honor roll student.
NASCAR Diversity Internship Program Award: Perron Jones
An Augusta, Ga., native, Perron is currently enrolled in Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, Ga., where he majors in Computer Science. Perron interned via the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program with the IT department in Daytona Beach, Fla. During his internship, Perron worked in the service call center and wrote a valuable app that saved the department several additional man hours. In addition to his coursework, Perron also runs track at Georgia Tech and recently set a school track and field record in the 60m dash while holding a 3.37 GPA.
Educational Institutional Award: Hampton University
Hampton University is awarded this prestigious honor because of their role in the off-track evaluation of participants at the 2011 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine hosted by Langley Speedway. Both the Sports Managements School and Scripps School of Journalism and Communications participated in key initiatives. Professor Ralph Charlton and his sport management students organized a car show which enhanced awareness for Revolution Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program while promoting and advertising the Combine in the greater Hampton citywide. They also provided facilities to evaluate driver fitness. Professor William “Chris” Leonard’s 43 students from the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications received real-world experience by staging a series of media exercises across multiple campus facilities which covered one-on-one interviews, live group press conferences, at-track coverage and news packages which ran on Air America.
NASCAR Partner Award: International Speedway Corporation
In an effort to increase participation and awareness of the sport among Hispanic fans, the NASCAR Diversity Affairs department partnered with ISC tracks to execute a pilot program entitled “Bienvenidos a NASCAR.” With guidance and support from several ISC tracks (Chicago, Miami and Phoenix), NASCAR increased its targeted Hispanic reach via advertising and promotions, as well as concerts and Spanish language garage QR codes that gave an overview of the sport. The resulting partnership enhanced the at-track experience for Hispanic fans by incorporating culturally relevant touch points throughout the race weekend.
NASCAR Industry Ambassador: Steve deSouza
This year marks Steve deSouza’s 14th year as vice president of NASCAR Nationwide Series operations at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Over that time JGR’s NASCAR Nationwide Series operations has grown to include three teams, while the driver development program has flourished under deSouza’s watchful eye that continues to identify many of the sports’ talented young drivers. Through his work in the developmental series, he afforded drivers like Aric Almirola, Marc Davis and Darrell Wallace Jr. the opportunity to compete in the national series as well as providing test opportunities for several other minority drivers. Joe Gibbs Racing has been committed to diversity for years and Steve deSouza has been a key part of their team’s dedication in this area.
Walter Thomas III, 13, of Indianapolis, Ind., was presented the Young Drivers Award during Wednesday's luncheon. Scott Hunter/NASCAR