Chevrolet has set up its own NASCAR driver development program in a bid to catch up with Ford and particularly Toyota, which is thought to have the strongest young driver program among NASCAR’s three manufacturers.
As Autosport reports, Chevrolet has signed Gander Outdoors NASCAR Truck Series drivers Noah Gragson, Sheldon Creed and John Hunter-Nemechek to the young driver development program, along with part-time Xfinity Series driver Zane Smith. Also apart of the program will be 15-year old K&N Pro Series East driver Sam Mayer and 16-year old late model racer Adam Lemke.
Dubbed ‘Driver’s Edge Development’, the program will help young drivers with the various media interaction and promotional aspects of professional motorsports and also give them access to better equipment in their respective race series. It won’t lock them into a contract with Chevrolet, however, giving them the freedom to steer their career in another direction should they ever want to drive for another manufacturer.
“There are a lot of things that are important outside of the racecar when it comes to building a brand, how to use social media to your advantage, being able to carry a conversation with the media,” Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner of JR Motorsports, which employs Lemke and other young drivers, told Autosport.
“I was real fortunate before I started racing in the Xfinity Series in 1998 to go through a programme that helped me a tremendous amount as far as my interviewing skills and carry myself in front of media.”
“There are a lot of drivers that come through this sport and we just want to give them the ability and the tools they need outside of the racecar as well,” he added.
Chevy will also give the drivers access to their simulator and help with off-track strength and conditioning training.
Chevrolet is surely looking to improve the various aspects of its NASCAR program after being surpassed by Toyota and Ford in the Cup Series in 2018. The automaker only had one driver in the top 10 by season’s end and was far from vying for the championship.