For years, the powers in NASCAR have been aware of a lack of minorities on racing teams and behind the wheel. No one denies that people from varied backgrounds would be good for the sport, and, to its credit, NASCAR has tried various strategies for welcoming more minorities into its ranks. Some of these programs have been more successful than others, but by and large there has been little noticeable change among the ranks of drivers and crewmen.

Drive for Diversity is a new program developed and managed by Access Marketing & Communications in Charlotte, North Carolina, that aims to provide more opportunities for minorities in racing. The goal of Drive for Diversity is to match both drivers and crewmembers with teams in need of their services. In its first tryout, the program accepted over 100 resumes from drivers, and more than that from people looking for crew jobs. Twelve drivers and 33 crewmen were invited to its combine January 5-6 at Hickory (North Carolina) Motor Speedway.

Candidates and representatives from several racing teams gathered at Hickory Motor Speedway for the program. The plan was for potential drivers to hit the track while crewmen traveled to the 5 Off 5 On Race Team Performance facilities in Mooresville, North Carolina. This facility is dedicated to training people who wish to find positions on race day pit crews. They also consult top race teams on improving the performance of their pit crews. Unfortu- nately, rain cancelled activities on the track on the scheduled day, so the drivers were delayed a day. Crewmen, meanwhile, received a thorough evaluation by the instructors at 5 Off 5 On.

The morning was devoted to fitness evaluations and interviews with each of the candidates. Because temperament and intelligence are just as important as physical ability, interviews were given equal weight with physical prowess. The physical fitness evaluation tested candidates' quickness, strength, flexibility, conditioning, agility, and range of motion-all critical factors for anyone who hopes to go over the wall on race day. More interviews were conducted after lunch, but most of the afternoon was devoted to specific skills assessments.

Once all the candidates were evaluated in the morning, a few were invited to perform specific skills evaluations. These included the tasks that pit crewmembers actually perform, such as changing tires, carrying tires, and jacking the car. Breon Klopp, 5 Off 5 On's founder, put the participants through several highly focused drills to assess their abilities. Because Drive for Diversity is as interested in helping each of the candidates as it is in picking out the few who excel, Klopp and his staff spent as much time giving the participants useful instruction as they did evaluating drills. This fostered a supportive environment in which each of the participants cheered others as they performed their tasks.

Antonio Texidor, a graduate of North Carolina A&T with an engineering degree, and a recent graduate of the NASCAR Technical Institute, feels the program is a great opportunity for young minorities to get their start in the racing industry. "I think Drive for Diversity will be good," he says. "You get a lot in a little bit of time. A lot of this stuff [pit crew training and evaluation] is good stuff, especially if you don't have experience in it." Texidor's situation is odd in that his goal is to be neither a driver nor an over-the-wall crewman, but a race team engineer. "It's still good, though," he says. "They gave me a lot of ideas on where to go and how to pursue a position."

Drive for Diversity's goal for the pit crew portion of the combine was to place up to five of the participants with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams competing full time in 2004. Once the evaluations were complete, the program began working with teams that may have open spots.