This article originally appeared in The Herald of Randolph (2010).
On October 18 Dylan Smith of Randolph, flew to Charlotte, N.C. with his parents to participate in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.
Just over a month ago, the 18-year-old received an email announcing that he had been chosen to compete in the seventh annual Drive for Diversity Combine.
He joined 35 other candidates from 18 states, Mexico and Puerto Rico, in hopes of earning a spot on the Revolution Racing team that will field racers at both the K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-America Series next year.
Drive for Diversity has been creating opportunities for minority and female competitors since the program began in 2004. The overall goal of the organization is to further diversify NASCAR’s current participant and audience base.
At the Combine, Smith went through weight training and driving assessments, as well as media training.
“It’s like a NFL combine,” Smith expained. “They run you through certain drills and exercises to evaluate your skills.”
Following the three-day evaluation, the results will be assessed by a committee that will select participants for the 2011 season.
Smith had been accepted last year as well, but did not make one of the top 10 qualifying spots. The car he had been placed in did not have enough room to fit his long legs, making it harder to control. After going through the program once before and having raced another season at Thunder Road, Smith sees himself having a better chance of qualifying.
“Thunder Road is a great place to cut your teeth, or get started,” says Smith. The track is known nationwide by both racers and fans. No other place in New England can beat its competition, Smith said.
Smith was by far the youngest competitor at the track, contending against racers that were 20 years older than he.
“I don’t know if I was accepted by all of them,” he said, “but I did manage to make some new friends.”
One of his race peers, Eric Chase, was very supportive and even bought Smith $700 worth of equipment.
Racing has been Smith’s passion ever since the age of four. He started on go-karts at Thunder Road and moved onto stock cars as he got older. Go-karting excited the young Smith, since that was how some of his favorite drivers, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, started their careers. He and his father, Ken Smith, ordered the karts from companies and assembled them at home.
Smith now races in a car which is set up to handle high speeds and G-forces. Many features in this particular race car make it illegal to drive on a regular roadway.
“I haven’t owned my own car for the past two years, but in order to pay for the week to week stuff my parents worked double jobs the last two years,” said Smith.
Despite his remarkable achievements, Smith never had a true mentor, he said. He would observe other, more experienced, drivers and learn from their accomplishments and mistakes. When they noticed that Smith was an aspiring racer, many drivers would offer their advice and support. Smith took their kind words into account, but also figured out many strategies on his own.
It was the rush of the sport that intrigued Smith.
“There is nothing like winning a race,” he said. “To finish first after 50 laps is just incredible.”
His goal is to be the best driver that he can be. He would like to make it to one of the top three tiers of NASCAR and see where it takes him.
“This is important to me because I can help make history and show people of color that there aren’t any barriers. I would also like to show all kids that your dreams can come true, you just need to go out and grab them,” says Smith.
Smith now awaits a telephone call from the Drive for Diversity administrators, informing him about whether or not he made the team.
“Despite whatever happens, I just want to thank my family, friends and supporters for staying with me all this time,” he said. “I hope I give them something to be proud of when I come home.”