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DATE News (chronologically)
09/27/06
nascar
GM Racing Development Driver Evaluation Program
Detroit (MI) - GM Racing is in the process of hosting a three-stage Development Driver Evaluation Program. The purpose is to place a group of select young drivers in a controlled environment to give Chevy Nextel Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series racing teams the opportunity to meet the drivers and observe their on-track skills.
 
All Chevrolet teams have been invited to attend and observe the drivers.  GM Racing engineers along with Pratt-Miller staff members are in attendance at all three stages to accurately gather data for review by Chevy team representatives.
 
A total of 16 drivers with a wide variety of racing backgrounds were invited to participate in the first two stages of the program: Chase Austin, Colin Braun, Landon Cassill, Jeremy Clements, Marc Davis, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Jay Gerst, Drew Herring, Woody Howard, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Joey Lagano, Tim McCreadie, Chad McCumbee, Josh Richards, Jason Sarvis and Kody Swanson.
 
"We are excited to offer this unique opportunity to our NASCAR teams," said Pat Suhy, NASCAR program manger for GM Racing.  "Continuing to build our NASCAR racing future with our Chevy team partners is critical to the continued growth and success of the Chevrolet nameplate on the track. 
 
"Unlike other programs of this nature, there are no winners or losers. Our program provides opportunities for both the drivers and the teams to connect if an opening exists in someone's driver roster.
 
"This evaluation program is designed to allow these drivers the opportunity to showcase their talent and adaptability in equal cars in a controlled environment. We are very pleased at how the first two stages have been completed and are looking forward to the third and final stage at Nashville in two weeks"
 
The first stage was held September 12-13, 2006 at Caraway Speedway, Asheboro NC and showcased the drivers in NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) cars. The cars were prepared and the trackside crew furnished by Richard Childress Racing (RCR). Two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday, Jr. set the baseline of the cars and remained available throughout the day's activities to answer questions and coach the drivers.
 
Each driver was given a 20-minute test and tune session to work on the setup and get more comfortable in the car.  After the crew did a final check of the car, the driver competed a 40-lap run of timed laps.  The cars were equipped with data acquisition equipment to assist in evaluation of driver's performance.
 
Approximately 1,400 laps were run with just four minor spins and no damage sustained to any of the cars; a strong testament to the talent of the drivers participating in the evaluation program.
 
"The day's events were flawless," Alba Colon, GM Racing program manager for Nextel Cup observed. "Our RCR partners did a tremendous job in preparing the cars and helping choreograph the day at the track.
 
"It is quite amazing to see so many talented, young drivers in one place at one time.  This is exciting for all of us at GM Racing to see the future prospects for our teams and our program look so bright."
 
Stage II of the program was held September 19-20, at Dale McDowell Dirt School located at North Georgia Speedway, Chatsworth, GA.  Three different dirt track cars - crate-motor dirt late model stock car (approximately 450 hp); a spec-motor dirt late model stock car (approximately 550 hp) and an open-motor dirt late model stock car (approximately 800 hp) -were setup and a baseline established by veteran dirt late model champion Dale McDowell.
 
Each driver was taken for a ride in two-seater school car driven by McDowell then given two sessions in each of the three classes of dirt cars for a total 50 laps. Only the open-motor dirt late model was equipped with data acquisition equipment. A crew from RCR was on hand to assist McDowell and his staff in setting up and maintaining the cars.
 
Again, with over 1,000 laps completed, there were no significant incidents on-track despite the wide variety of dirt track experience, ranging from none to full-time competitor.
 
"I was really quite surprised at how well most of the drivers adapted quickly to the dirt," said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing program director Craftsman Truck Series.  "Since the driving technique on dirt is totally different than asphalt racing, it forced them to learn new techniques that are counter intuitive to what they have done in their pavement careers. As a group, these guys were terrific."

"The two-day stage was run very well," said Kevin Bayless, GM Racing trackside engineer.  "The cars were prepared well and Dale McDowell did a good job coaching the drivers and helping them along.  Seeing many drivers completely out of there element gave a new perspective and a chance to see how quickly they adapted as well as gave the dirt regulars a chance to show their stuff.  The dirt format made it easy to distinguish differences in driving style and smoothness with both steering and throttle.  I believe this was a valuable addition to the evaluation process."
 
The final stage is scheduled for October 10-11, 2006 at Nashville Superspeedway, Nashville TN. Drivers will again be showing their skills in RCR-prepared Busch Series cars. 

Media members are cordially invited to attend the Nashville stage.  Short biographies of drivers and photography from the Caraway Speedway stage are available upon request.

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