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2 Las Vegas Bullring veterans will drive for NASCAR diversity

A couple of weeks ago, NASCAR was sued for $500 million by some guy who claimed the sanctioning body refused to work with him to make stock car racing more racially diverse.

Not much is expected to come from the lawsuit filed in September. No, NASCAR is not yet racially diverse, though Daniel Suarez of Mexico won last week’s Xfinity series race in dominating fashion. But NASCAR is at least trying to become more diverse with programs that contain the very word in the title.

Such as Drive for Diversity, a development curriculum that will have ethnically diverse and female drivers driving deep into corners and whatnot at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida, and Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college, in Daytona Beach from Oct. 12 to 14.

Two young drivers who have honed skills at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring are on the new list of 17 diverse aspirants announced this week.

Jay Beasley is the 2013 champion of the Super Late Models division. He spent two seasons in the K&N Pro Series East, at which he logged five top five finishes in 27 starts. He’s now trying to jumpstart his career.

“Enjoying life and taking one corner at a time,” Beasley writes on his Twitter account.

Kayli Barker is a three-time track champion, the Bullring’s all-time winningest female driver. She attends UNLV and was on last year’s Drive for Diversity roster.

“Being selected for the Drive for Diversity program again this year is a huge honor,” said Barker, who also is vying for a full-time ride in one of the steppingstone series.

“I am really eager to go to Florida and drive on a track that I have never been on before. From my experience last year, I have learned to put less pressure on myself to perform well. I think that actually will help me to do a lot better.”

The Drive for Diversity already has achieved its goal in some cases. In addition to Suarez, Darrell Wallace Jr. used the program as a springboard to the Xfinity Series, and Asian-American driver Kyle Larson, another D for D graduate, won a Sprint Cup race in Michigan in August.

NASCAR

Brendan Gaughan of Las Vegas finished ninth in last weekend’s Xfinity Series stop in Dover, Delaware, slipped a spot to fourth in championship points and literally “trashed” teammate Brandon Jones by dumping him into a refuse receptacle on pit road. This was after Jones did an impression of Gaughan by putting on one of the latter’s firesuits and stuffing it with padding, Santa Claus-style. It was all in good fun, at which Gaughan excels.

Another race, another TV ratings nosedive: The Chase race at Dover was down 21 percent in ratings and viewership from 2015, and 35 percent and 32 percent from 2014. The Cup race at Las Vegas in March, which drew a 4.1, remains the second-highest rated Sprint Cup race of the season, trailing the Daytona 500, which drew a 6.6.

LVMS

Next up at the track, or above it, is the Red Bull Air Race World Championship on Oct. 15 and 16. The airborne series, which races on four continents, is billed as high speed at low altitude. A German pilot named Matthias Dolderer clinched the championship in the skies over Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend, but the race here will be spectacular to watch anyway — provided the wind doesn’t kick up and blow over the inflatable pylons and start a small fire on the midway, all of which happened in 2014.

The Senator’s Cup Fall Classic, an open late model stock car race named in honor of Dean Heller, the junior U.S. senator from Nevada (and a former Bullring competitor), is set for Oct. 22 at the Bullring. For tickets, go to LVMS.com or call 702-6444-4444.

ELSEWHERE

NHRA calls its Chase-style playoff format the Countdown to the Championship. The next-to-last of six Countdown races is set for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway quarter-mile (or thereabouts) Oct. 27-30. The points leaders after three Countdown races are Antron Brown in Top Fuel, Ron Capps in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Andrew Line in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. His motor sports notebook runs on Friday. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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