Kyle Larson’s Martinsville Pole Marks Another Drive for Diversity Milestone

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

Martinsville, Va. – When Kyle Larson narrowly beat Bubba Wallace for the Cook Out 400 pole at Martinsville Speedway, it marked the second NASCAR Drive for Diversity milestone this season.

Kyle larson's martinsville pole marked another milestone for the nascar drive for diversity program.
Kyle Larson. (Photo by Zach Catanzareti/Kickin’ the Tires)

In a year when the program is marking its’ 20th anniversary, it opened the season with Nick Sanchez, an alum of the program, winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona Int’l Speedway. That was followed by wins from other alumni of Drive for Diversity by Daniel Suarez at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series and both Rajah Caruth and Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Truck and Cup respectively.

Entering Martinsville, the five full-time alum of the program had accounted for 49 combined pole positions across the three National Touring Series. Larson taking the top spot on the grid by 0.001 seconds over Wallace was the 50th for the program’s alum, and Larson’s 27th across the three touring series with 18 in Cup, seven in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and two in truck competition.

Drive for Diversity helped launch the careers of Caruth, Nick Sanchez, and other drivers, putting them into the spotlight. For Larson, the program was his introduction to racing on asphalt. He parlayed that into winning the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship (now known as the ARCA Menards Series East).

“That’s a great stat to hear,” Larson said. “I was in the program 12 years ago or so, and it did a lot for my career then to gain experience. That was really my introduction to pavement racing, especially in stock cars.

“To see how it has evolved over the years and the equipment that they have now, it seems really good. Drivers are able to go out there and compete at a high level now. Hats off to everybody that’s part of the Drive for Diversity Program. It’s always growing and getting better.”

Adding to Larson’s 27 NASCAR poles, Drive for Diversity alum Suarez has 10 poles, three in Cup, six in Xfinity, and one in Trucks. Wallace has seven poles, two each in Cup and Xfinity, with three in truck competition. Sanchez earned five pole positions in the Truck Series last season with Caruth earning his first Truck pole at Las Vegas.

Caruth’s win from the pole is one of 10 times that Drive for Diversity have earned after starting on the pole in the three National Touring Series. Larson has earned four wins from the pole in Cup and three in Xfinity, most recently at Circuit of the Americas where the Hendrick Motorsports driver became the first in NASCAR history to win the pole, the race, and only lead one lap. Suarez and Wallace both have won from the pole once in Xfinity and Trucks respectively.

Last season the Drive for Diversity program’s alum reached 50 combined wins when Larson, while driving as a substitute for an injured Alex Bowman, Truck Series’ Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Currently, the program accounts for 57 victories, 50 poles, and 1,469 combined starts across the national touring series.

Currently five alum, Caruth, Larson, Sanchez, Suarez, and Wallace compete full-time. Other alum, including Natalie Decker, Ryan Vargas (who will compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Pro Division this season), and Drive for Diversity’s Youth Program alum Blake Lothian, compete on a part-time basis in the national touring series.

As NASCAR’s developmental program continues to aid drivers and pit crew members ascent up the racing ladder, alumni of the program will continue to break down barriers and reach new heights.

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