A few weeks ago, Caitlin Shaw got a most-welcome, but unexpected phone call. The call was from NASCAR officials, inviting her to join the Drive for Diversity Combine. For the aspiring race car driver, it was music to her ears.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Shaw, an 19-year-old who graduated from La Cueva in the spring and is attending Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, studying motor sports management. “This is a great opportunity to me.”
The Drive for Diversity Combine will bring 24 young drivers from across the country to the South Boston Speedway in Virginia on Monday and Tuesday, competing for one of the 15 spots in NASCAR’s Developmental Series. The winning drivers will land berths in either the Camping World Series or the Whelan All-American Series.
The drivers will be showcasing their skills in front of NASCAR executives and team owners in two days of competition. The participants also will undergo media training and evaluation.
Shaw and the others will be behind the wheel of closed-wheel, late-model stock cars, pushing 3,000 pounds of power around the track. This will be quite a change for Shaw, who’s used to open-wheel, midget racers that weigh 900 pounds with horsepower of about 400.
“There’s a big difference in the type of racing,” she said. “There’s a lot more power.”
Drafting, braking and powering through the turns are the biggest difference, Shaw said.
“When you’re coming through a turn, in a midget, you hit the gas at the apex of the turn to keep your momentum,” she said. “With the stock cars, you roll through the turns.”
Another big change is the midget drivers sit in the middle of the vehicle while in stock cars, drivers sit in the traditional left-hand side of the car.
Shaw has had some experience testing the stock cars, as well the trucks from the Craftsman Truck Series, so she’s not entirely unfamiliar with how they handle.
And she’s confident once the executives get a good look at her ability, she’ll open some eyes.
“This fits right in with my goals for my driving career,” Shaw said. “Within five years, I plan to get into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.”
Shaw has been gearing toward a driving career since she was nine, racing quarter-midgets. She moved up to mini sprints at 14, winning a number of local championships at the Sandia Motorsports Park. As a 16-year-old, she moved up to the USAC Ford Focus Midget Racing Series, then onto the USAC National Series as a K&N Development Driver.
This has already been a busy year for Shaw. In addition to beginning college, she’s also attended driver’s school with Brad Noffsinger at Lowe’s Motor Speedway; was a Mazda Miata road course instructor at the Sandia track; attended the Lyn St. James Driver Development Program and tested trucks at the Pocono Raceway in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Now she’s studying in a renowned program for developing students in all aspects of the racing world.
She’ll have to miss two days of classes next week to be in the program, but Shaw isn’t too concerned.
“The professors are all pretty willing to work with you,” she said. “Particularly since I’m pursuing my professional career.”