DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In recognition of the individuals and organizations that have led with their efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the sport, NASCAR announced Thursday the 2021 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards recipients during a special ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina.
NASCAR executives, partners, drivers, crew members and other industry leaders were on hand for the 14th annual event held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as NASCAR presented awards to 12 recipients whose commitment to DE&I has contributed to a more diverse and inclusive sport.
“The substantial progress our sport has made with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion is a result of the collective work of many leaders within the NASCAR community who are driving us forward together,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “These awards celebrate those whose passion and commitment are strengthening a NASCAR culture that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone that shares a love of racing.”
Winners were announced during the Thursday ceremony across 10 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Award categories and are as follows:
Crew Member Award: Brian Eastland
A 17-year NASCAR industry veteran, Brian Eastland is one of the earliest graduates of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program and continues to mentor program participants and active NASCAR crew members. A respected leader on pit road and in the garage, Eastland has performed every over-the-wall role during his lengthy career, including for NASCAR Cup Series teams such as Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, and continues to pit in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Eastland holds degrees in both automotive and mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University.
Developmental Series Driver Award: Rajah Caruth and Toni Breidinger
Rajah Caruth is in his second season with the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program after becoming the first participant to successfully transition from competitive iRacing to real-life stock-car racing. After notching his first career late-model win last season at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Caruth this year won three additional races in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series and progressed to full-time racing in the ARCA Menards Series East. When he competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Alpha Prime Racing in 2022, the Winston-Salem State University student will become the first Black driver from the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program to compete in a national series event since Bubba Wallace.
In February, Toni Breidinger became the first Arab-American woman to compete in a NASCAR-sanctioned event when she took the green flag at the ARCA Menards Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Breidinger‘s history-making journey in NASCAR was covered by national TV programs — TODAY, Good Morning America and The Ellen DeGeneres Show — and her on-track schedule this season has also included late-model racing and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Earlier this year, she introduced the first beauty brand to NASCAR through a driver sponsorship deal with the Arab-owned Huda Beauty.
Sam Belnavis Industry Ambassador Award: Bernard Pollard
Bernard Pollard developed an interest in NASCAR midway through 2020, when the industry and its competitors took a vocal stance against racism and social injustice. The former NFL safety, who played pro football for nine years and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, became a student of NASCAR and documented his journey as a new NASCAR fan on social media. Pollard‘s genuine enthusiasm for the sport has inspired others to learn more about NASCAR racing, and over the past year-plus, he has attended races, participated in iRacing events and served as an ambassador for Ally Financial and the company‘s partnership with driver Alex Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports. The award was renamed in honor of motorsports pioneer Sam Belnavis, a trailblazer as a Black general manager and team owner in NASCAR. Belnavis passed away on July 14, 2021.
Institution Award: Boys & Girls Clubs of America
In April, Boys & Girls Clubs of America was announced as the Official Youth Community Partner of NASCAR and began working with the sanctioning body to plan both virtual and at-track experiences that will engage more than 4.6 million youth and teens across the country. The partnership focuses on three core areas — STEM education, career development and DE&I initiatives — and NASCAR activation planned for the Boys & Girls Clubs‘ digital platform, MyFuture, will launch later this month. In addition to NASCAR, Boys & Girls Clubs of America have robust and impactful partnerships with numerous NASCAR industry stakeholders, including Comcast, FOX Sports and Coca-Cola.
National Series Driver Award: Bubba Wallace
After helping lead the national conversation on race and social justice in 2020, Bubba Wallace has continued to advocate for change this season and has championed various diversity initiatives, including McDonald‘s Black & Positively Golden Mentors program. In his first year with Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin at 23XI Racing, Wallace became the second Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race when he claimed victory on Oct. 4, 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway. The journey of Wallace‘s debut season as driver of the No. 23 Toyota Camry is being documented by Netflix in a new, multi-part series.
Outstanding Intern Award: Korn Supatrabutra and Iris Wright
Korn Supatrabutra and Iris Wright were participants in the 2021 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Internship Program and spent the summer as interns in the NASCAR Marketing department. After graduating from college, Supatrabutra followed his passion for research analytics and joined NASCAR‘s Research & Insights team, where he contributed to analyze data around diverse fan audiences and other consumer research projects. The Bangkok, Thailand, native earned both a graduate degree in marketing research and bachelor‘s degree in marketing from Michigan State University.
As part of NASCAR‘s Multicultural & Youth Marketing team, Wright led initiatives to promote the recently launched NASCAR Kids Club and helped introduce the sanctioning body‘s STEM-focused partnership with the National Science Teaching Association in August. The North Carolina State University senior also steered an intern-led fundraising case-study project for The NASCAR Foundation.
Partner Award: RISE
Partners with NASCAR since 2016, RISE is a national nonprofit organization focused on educating and empowering the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations. When NASCAR announced in 2020 that diversity training will be a mandatory requirement for all drivers and team employees, RISE was engaged to administer racism, anti-racism and unconscious bias workshops and curriculum across the industry. By the start of the 2021 season, RISE and its training leads conducted more than 3,000 trainings across both NASCAR employees and industry personnel.
Team Award: Trackhouse Racing
Trackhouse Racing debuted in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021 with Mexico native Daniel Suárez behind the wheel of the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The mission of team owner Justin Marks and partner Pitbull is to compete for wins and championships in the sport‘s premier series — but also to promote diversity and inclusion and introduce new fans to NASCAR. Throughout the year, Pitbull and Suárez have engaged in various ways with the Hispanic community, including visits with students at the tuition-free charter school SLAM! (Sports Leadership and Management Inc.), founded by the world-famous entertainer.
Track Award: Nashville Superspeedway
Nashville Superspeedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2021 and returned to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedules in 2021. On June 19 — the day of the Xfinity Series race — the track hosted 120 alumni from Tennessee State University in recognition of the HBCU school‘s Founders Day. Erik Moses, the first Black track president in NASCAR, and his staff also hosted 30 students from the Knowledge is Power Program of Nashville, a free college preparatory school for low-income communities on that same day. In the last year, the track also made financial contributions to improve its surrounding community. In collaboration with Ally Financial, Nashville Superspeedway contributed $25,000 to the Urban League of Middle Tennessee and $25,000 to Box 55, which supports first responders in Nashville, Tennessee.
Young Racer Award: Regina Sirvent
In 2021, Regina Sirvent graduated to full-time racing in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series in her second season with the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program. Last year, the Mexico native became the first female driver to win a race in the FB and BOHN Mikel‘s Trucks presented by Sherwin-Williams at the Autódromo del Ecocentro de la Unión Ganadera. She is a vocal ambassador for both women and Hispanics in racing and uses her platform to encourage young girls to pursue their dreams and always “go for the cookies (the win).”