Kayli Barker, the winningest female driver in the history of The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will be part of NASCAR’s annual Drive for Diversity Combine, where she will compete for a spot in the industry’s top driver development program (Photo credit: Jeff Speer).
Barker, a freshman at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, has won 15 races at the 3/8-mile paved oval and finished fifth in the NASCAR Super Late Models points standings this season. She will have a chance to compete in a three-day combine at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., Oct. 19-21, for inclusion in the NASCAR D4D Class of 2016.
Barker said she applied for the combine each of the last three years and was pleasantly surprised to learn she’d been accepted for the 2015 combine.
“I’m thrilled, especially since this is something new and different,” said Barker, a three-time season champion at The Bullring. “I finally got chosen, so it’s a nice little relief. When I first looked at the (acceptance) e-mail, I thought it was probably just saying, ‘Try again next year.’ But I was like, ‘Oh wow, I got picked!’ I was in shock.”
She has been busy preparing for the trip east and is looking at the experience as an opportunity to show her talents to a different part of the NASCAR family.
“All I’ve been doing is watching videos online to see the lines of the track,” she said. “It’ll be nice to just be able to compare myself to whoever is there. A lot of them race in the K&N Series East, so it’ll be nice to see where I am with them.
“It’ll also help my name get out there. I’ll be on NASCAR’s radar now.”
In addition to the 18-year-old Barker, current Bullring driver Jairo Avila of Alhambra, Calif., and former drivers Juan Garcia (Bogota, Colombia), Mariah McGriff (Vail, Ariz.), Hannah Newhouse (Twin Falls, Idaho) and Vanessa Robinson (Las Cruces, N.M.) also will take part in the 22-driver combine. Driver combine participants will be evaluated on their driving skills and will also be tested on a series of strength and agility exercises at Hampton University.
Now in its 12th year, the annual Combine invites promising ethnically diverse and female drivers, ages 14 to 26, from across North America to test their skills over a three-day period in order to identify members of the NASCAR D4D Class of 2016.
“Finding and developing diverse athletes who will represent the future of NASCAR is at the core of our organization’s mission,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy. “Every year, the bar is raised with talented applicants who have the potential and determination to succeed. We’re proud to watch our graduates in the national series and develop more diverse talent to join them in the years to come.”
In partnership with Rev Racing, the Max Siegel-owned race team, D4D offers racing opportunities in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for one full season, providing drivers with equipment, mentoring and competition experience. Jay Beasley, the 2013 Bullring NASCAR Super Late Model season champion, is a past participant in the NASCAR D4D program and now drives for Siegel’s team.
“We could not be more excited about this year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine to select the 2016 Class of Rev Racing drivers,” Siegel said. “Coming off of our sixth consecutive multiple race-winning season, we are focused on continuing to make our program and approach world class, as we prepare these young drivers to advance into the national series.”
The NASCAR D4D Combine has proven successful in identifying and developing future stars of the sport. Current D4D member Collin Cabre secured Rev Racing’s second win of 2015 with a victory at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season finale at Dover International Speedway.
In addition, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suárez, leaders in the series’ Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, are among the graduates of the program.
In addition to drivers, NASCAR Drive for Diversity has successfully identified and developed pit crew members to find employment opportunities within the sport. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Challenge Tour will host its final Combine of the year at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Oct. 9 in Concord, N.C.
2015 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine participants
- Hannah Adair, 21, Tulsa, Okla.
- Jairo Avila, 20, Alhambra, Calif.
- Kayli Barker, 18, Las Vegas
- Nicole Behar, 17, Otis Orchards, Wash.
- Abraham Calderon, 26, Monterrey, Mexico
- Macy Causey, 14, Yorktown, Va.
- Enrique Contreras, 22, San Antonio
- Madeline Crane, 17, Meansville, Ga.
- Claire Decker, 20, Eagle River, Wis.
- Natalie Decker, 18, Eagle River, Wis.
- Juan Garcia, 17, Bogota, Colombia
- Ruben Garcia Jr., 19, Mexico City, Mexico
- Ali Kern, 22, Fremont, Ohio
- Enrique Limon, 17, Mexico City, Mexico
- Mariah McGriff, 20, Vail, Ariz.
- Becca Monopoli, 26, Lakeland, Fla.
- Erika Newcome, 20, Pickerington, Ohio
- Hannah Newhouse, 18, Twin Falls, Idaho
- Vanessa Robinson, 25, Las Cruces, N.M.
- Dylan Smith, 23, Concord, N.C.
- Walter Thomas, 16, Indianapolis
- Santiago Tovar, 22, Mexico City, Mexico