Now comes the hard part.
After three days of evaluations – the last two of which consisted of on-track testing at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. – Rev Racing personnel will pour over their notes from the 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Combine and pick their team for the 2013 racing season.
It won’t be an easy task, which for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity is a good thing.
“We saw a ton of talent – a lot more talent than ever before,” said Jefferson Hodges, Rev Racing’s director of competition. “And some of them were the same kids. I don’t know what they did between last year and this year, but they really stepped up their game. I was really happy about it.
“I think there are a lot more drivers that deserve an opportunity in our Late Model program than there are openings, so that part of is going to result in some tough decisions.”
“The success of that program is based on the fact that we’re able to really concentrate and develop these drivers.”
For drivers like Daniel Suarez, Rev Racing’s reputation for development is what makes a spot on the team so valuable. Suarez is leading the Mexico’s NASCAR Toyota Series in points and is a member of the Next9 initiative, an industry program that helps identify the next wave of NASCAR starts coming up through the ranks. In the past two years, he has run against Rev Racing drivers such as Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Sergio Pena.
“It’s a really good experience being with all these drivers,” said Suarez of the Combine. “This is one of the best teams for development of young drivers who are in my position. I’m really excited to get the chance to get this opportunity to try out for Rev Racing.
“It’s a really important step for me and my career to be one of the 17 drivers [invited to the Combine], but that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to be a member of the team and I’m working really hard for that.”
Thursday’s final session was a half-day, with a handful of drivers making additional runs as officials got a second look to help gather more information. All drivers are still in the running for spots on the 2013 Rev Racing team, which will be selected from among the 2012 Rev Racing drivers and the Combine participants. That selection will take place following the completion of the 2012 season. Rev Racing still has a pair of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races on the schedule.
The Combine has been held the last two years at Langley, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned track. The track’s characteristics help play a large role in evaluating drivers.
“The track is tough. It’s hard,” said Jefferson, who has more than 15 years experience with Late Models throughout the southeast. “Turns 3 and 4 are simple. It’s just a corner. But 1 and 2 is extremely difficult. So it really separates the great drivers from the good drivers.”
The drivers at the Combine boast a variety of backgrounds in racing, from open-wheel to stock car. Limited experience in full-fendered cars, though, did little to slow down the competitors. Collin Cabre, a Florida driver with extensive sprint car experience, said the challenge of those cars actually helps drivers adapt quickly to their surroundings.
“These two days have been an incredible experience,” said Collin Cabre. “Running from a sprint to a Late Model is totally different. They’re both fast in their own ways.
“What might spook another driver won’t spook a sprint car driver; what they say is out of shape and what I say is out of shape is totally different. They might say it’s totally sideways and it’s not really,” said Cabre. “The cars are very well set up. Rev Racing did a great job setting them up in the shop. They’re a pleasure to drive and I hope I’ll be driving them more.”