CHARLOTTE, N.C. _ In late January in Irwindale, Calif., Sergio Pena, a 16-year-old of Hispanic descent, won the pole for the Toyota All-Star Showdown, one of the biggest short-track races on the West Coast, and raced Sprint Cup star Joey Logano to the checkered flag before finishing second.
In March, 16-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr., an 11th-grader at Northwest Cabarrus High School in North Carolina, became both the youngest and the first African-American winner of a race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, capturing the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at the venerable track.
Pena and Wallace, among others, are the faces of diversity in stock car racing.
They're not at NASCAR’s premier levels _ the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup series _ but they are driving race cars and they're succeeding in a sport that's still dominated by white males.
It's a climb that's complicated by culture and economics, but there's a sense across the sport that progress _ perhaps slower than many want _ is being made toward diversifying stock-car racing.
"There is good movement," said Brad Daugherty, an African-American Sprint Cup team co-owner and TV commentator. "I still think NASCAR continues to work diligently at creating opportunities.
"It's just so doggone difficult to be a part of the sport because it's so cost-prohibitive. . . . At the end of the day, it's not black or white. It's green."
Is NASCAR ready for a breakout star who's African-American or female?
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