Later today in Los Angeles, NASCAR will honor 10 trailblazers and inclusion advocates, at the 16th annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards. Among the honorees are crew members, league partners, and a public school system who are all making a real difference in the sport. And new this year, Ally Financial — the nation‘s largest digital-only bank and Official Consumer Bank of NASCAR — will be the first-ever presenting partner of the ceremony.
“Today we celebrate 10 individuals playing a key role growing our sport and welcoming new fans by making it more inclusive,” said NASCAR president, Steve Phelps. “Having the support of sponsors like Ally is crucial because we share a common goal of making racing inclusive for all. We‘re elated to have them as the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards.”
Ally, widely known for its commitment to inclusivity on and off the track, entered racing in 2019 as a full-season sponsor of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Team and expanded its presence by becoming an official NASCAR partner in 2023. Ally has since initiated a series of initiatives designed to elevate the contributions of diverse members of the racing community, including:
Fueling Futures: In 2019, Ally launched its annual Fueling Futures program in collaboration with HMS. It is aimed at fostering economic mobility for young people by showcasing the various job opportunities within motorsports, beyond race car drivers.First Lap Program: Ally launched its First Lap program last year by partnering with organizations serving minority communities to give their members a VIP race day experience, continuing to demystify the sport for people unfamiliar with racing.Inclusive Paint Schemes: Over the years, the Ally 48 has featured multiple inclusive and captivating paint schemes, including numerous LGBTQ+ Pride decals, a design featuring Static, an iconic Black superhero, and more.Ally and NASCAR ERGs: Ally and NASCAR connected their respective employee resource groups (ERGs) so they could work together and make a collective DE&I impact, including when NASCAR and Ally‘s pride ERGs walked side-by-side at in the Charlotte Pride parade early last year.
“From our Fueling Futures and First Lap programs to the inclusive paint schemes on the Ally 48, our efforts in the sport have been focused on advancing diversity and inclusion within racing, which is why we are thrilled to recognize the progress as the first-ever presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards,” said Bridget Sponsky, executive director of brand and sponsorship marketing at Ally Financial. “We know together we can make racing a more inclusive place for all, and we couldn‘t be prouder to honor these extraordinary diversity difference makers at the awards.”
The 2024 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards recipients are as follows:
Crew Member: Mike Metcalf
Mike Metcalf previously worked as the Co-Head Pit Crew Coach and Director of Culture and Community at Trackhouse Racing. The Charlotte native and former football student-athlete graduated with honors from Appalachian State University. Metcalf first entered the world of NASCAR as a pit crew member in 2006. Mike started coaching pit crews in addition to competing in 2012. Mike is one of the few Pit Crew Coaches to be a pit crew champion as both a crew member (08‘) and a coach (22‘).
Developmental Series Driver: Zach Herrin
Zach Herrin races part-time in the ARCA Menards Series. He‘s an out driver who has been an exemplary advocate for LGBTQ+ people in the motorsports industry, integrating inclusion into his ethos through building partnerships with organizations such as Lambda Legal and representing the sport in a positive light both on and off the racetrack.
Sam Belnavis Industry Ambassador: Jefferson Hodges, Team Penske
Jefferson Hodges serves as NASCAR Team Manager for Team Penske and previously worked as Rev Racing‘s General Manager and Director of Competition for 10 years. Hodges was instrumental in the growth and stability of the Rev Racing organization, helping train, advance and guide over 100 developmental drivers during his stint. Currently at Team Penske, Hodges continues to keep DE&I efforts at the forefront by working with Rev Racing to identify potential pit crew recruits.
Institution: Chicago Public Schools
NASCAR and Chicago Public Schools worked together to help introduce the sport to a new generation of racing fans when 43 CPS STEM and STEAM schools and 22,000 students from across the district participated in an in-classroom design challenge focused on driver helmets in 2023. Winning teams of K-12 students were invited to the inaugural STEAM Fest to compete in an engineering-focused design challenge with help from NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suárez and a team of STEM professionals from the NASCAR industry. Following the success of the 2023 program, NASCAR‘s Research and Development Team has furthered its partnership with CPS to build a NASCAR-themed STEAM curriculum to be rolled out to an additional 17,000+ 8th graders across the city in 2024.
National Series Driver: Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing
Tyler Reddick, driver of the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota, has participated in several events to promote dialogue on social justice as an integral part of NASCAR‘s diversity and inclusion work with its drivers. Reddick also leverages his partnership with Jordan Brand and his team, 23XI Racing, to engage celebrities and influencers like J. Balvin as an opportunity to expand NASCAR‘s reach to diverse audiences.
Outstanding Intern: Chandler Love, University of Miami
Chandler Love joined the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program with a strong passion for Human Resources. Over the summer, Chandler supported various functions within NASCAR‘s HR department, contributing significantly to processes and the overall employee experience. Chandler‘s dedication and exceptional performance earned her a part-time opportunity with NASCAR as a Learning Administrator as she completes her senior year at the University of Miami.
Partner: Keurig Dr Pepper
Keurig Dr Pepper has shown commitment to NASCAR diversity, equity & inclusion goals through the Dr Pepper 23XI SPEED Institute Tuition Program, which began in 2021. Through this alliance between Dr Pepper and 23XI Racing, Dr Pepper has offered vital financial support by awarding 23 deserving students $5,000 each in tuition assistance. Additionally, several tuition recipients have had the opportunity to gain work experience in motorsports through internships at 23XI.
Team: Venturini Motorsports
Venturini Motorsports has played a pivotal role in the careers of drivers throughout the years. During the 2023 season Venturini Motorsports earned an ARCA Menards West Championship with Sean Higorani while also competing in the ARCA Menards Series with drivers Toni Breidinger, Amber Balcaen and Taylor Reimer. In addition to developing driver talent, Venturini has continued to advance engineering talent hiring Monon Rahman who won his first race as a crew chief with Sean Hignorani in 2023. Venturini‘s longstanding commitment to advancing careers and the sport began with The Ultra Blue Crew in 1987, which was an all-female pit-crew that competed in ARCA races.
Track: Phoenix Raceway
Phoenix Raceway utilized the NASCAR Championship Ignition Luncheon benefiting Phoenix Children‘s Hospital to generate excitement for the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs and NASCAR Championship Weekend while also promoting NASCAR‘s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The luncheon, which featured a cross section of NASCAR‘s past, present and future that showcased the changing face of the sport to an influential audience, was built on a successful event earlier in the year highlighting STEM‘s important role in NASCAR and introducing underrepresented cultures to our sport. The track has also been a sponsor of Phoenix Pride for the past two years.
Young Racer: Katie Hettinger
In 2023, Katie Hettinger was crowned CARS Tour Rookie of the Year, finishing the season second in Driver Championship Points, and receiving the fan vote as Most Popular Pro Late Model driver. She also received the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2022.
— NASCAR —