NASCAR: Roster set for October’s Drive for Diversity combine

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NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has seen some noticeable successes as of late.

Three of its graduates in particular have been especially successful: Kyle Larson’s likely bagged Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors, Darrell Wallace Jr. is a regular contender in the Camping World Truck Series, and Mexico Series star Daniel Suarez is heading for the Nationwide Series in 2015.

Time will tell if at least one of the 20 drivers participating in next month’s D4D Combine at Langley Speedway (Hampton, Va.) can make a big name for themselves too.

But for now, they’ll be looking to earn a spot in the D4D’s class of 2015 through the combine.

This year’s batch of prospects largely come from across North America, with one exception: 17-year-old Juan Esteban Garcia Duarte, who hails from Bogota, Colombia.

Two drivers, 25-year-old Abraham Calderon and 18-year-old Ruben Garcia, Jr., come from Mexico. One Canadian, 22-year-old Amber Balcaen, is also set for the combine.

The other 16 drivers in the combine are from the U.S., with perhaps the biggest name of the lot being Kenzie Ruston, the 22-year-old Oklahoma native that set a new record for best finish by a female driver in K&N East history by placing second last month at Iowa Speedway.

Here’s the full roster:


“This year’s Combine applicant pool was among the strongest the program has seen, and we continue to see that year over year,” said Max Siegel, owner of Rev Racing, which helps run the D4D program.

“The program’s visibility and reputation for developing young, female and diverse drivers with talent and growth potential has increased across the board, and we are seeing steady recognition and support from key stakeholders across the motorsports industry.”

Per a NASCAR release, each driver will be evaluated on at-track performance including: Positioning at different places on the track, proficiency in providing in-car feedback to the crew chief, overall speed, and the ability to shift during assessments.

The combine will take place at Langley from Oct. 13-15.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.