NASCAR banks on minority drivers to broaden sport’s exposure

Rajah Caruth liked the animated autos of “Cars” as a kid, got hooked on the race scene after a trip to the track and sharpened his driving skills as a teen via online racing.

Caruth might one day earn his shot at inspiring the next generation of drivers.

The 18-year-old Caruth is a NASCAR prospect, a young Black driver and one of a half-dozen youngsters participating in the Drive for Diversity program tasked with finding and developing drivers for a sport lean on women and minorities behind the wheel.

“Ideally, I’d want to be in the Cup Series in the next decade,” Caruth said. “Hopefully, by then.”

The program has developed few drivers for the elite Cup Series over nearly two decades in existence — Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez are among the former members and the only ones currently with rides — but a renewed push at scouting younger drivers and promoting them has NASCAR optimistic more recent classes will reverse the trend.

Wallace’s extraordinary season and his emergence as a social activist, in fact, have put a bright light on the program, which wobbled for years between a public relations exercise and a meaningful avenue toward a Cup Series career.

There are 56 graduates of the Drive for Diversity pit crew program actively working across the three national series, including 27 at the Cup Series level. Cup rides for program graduates are scarce, though. Kyle Larson, who is half Japanese, was the most successful alumnus until he used a racial slur during a live-streamed virtual race and was fired by Chip Ganassi.

“There needs to be more resources available for that program,” said Brad Daugherty, the lone Black team owner in NASCAR.

The task of turning the program into more of a driver factory is on the agenda

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Malaysia to host AFC Champions League games

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 9, 2019, players from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors celebrate their goal during the AFC Champions League Group G football match between the Urawa Reds of Japan and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea in Saitama. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

Malaysia will host two groups in the coronavirus-hit AFC Champions League, organizers said, although two more pools in Asia’s premier football competition remain without a home.

After Qatar agreed to host all four groups in the West region, Malaysia has stepped in to stage East-zone groups G and H, featuring teams from Japan, China, South Korea and Australia, as well as Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim.

The Champions League, on hold since the pandemic wiped out international sport in March, will resume on September 14 in Qatar with the games in Malaysia starting on October 17.

However, “the centralized venue for the AFC Champions League groups E and F as well as the remaining knockout stage matches are yet to be confirmed”, an Asian Football Confederation statement said.

Groups E and F include teams from Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and Thailand.

To help squeeze in the condensed tournament, all knockout ties will be played in a single match, rather than home and away, and the final will also be a one-off game played in the West region.


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Former batting coach keeping the faith in Shai Hope as West Indies batsman’s Test slump continues

Shai Hope’s Test woes were perfectly summed up in Manchester on Tuesday, with the West Indies batsmen’s falling to an ugly stroke to throw his wicket away. That the rash attempt at a pull shot off Chris Woakes came at a time when the West Indies were battling to save the Test series made Hope’s dismissal all the more painful to watch.

This was a batsman under increased scrutiny after his dismal displays in the two Tests leading to the series decider at Old Trafford. With an aggregate of just 105 runs from six innings in the series, it is safe to say that Hope has had a stinker in England. His performances in England this time around are in stark contrast to the last time he played a Test series on these shores.

In a day-night Test in Headingley in 2017, Hope had announced his arrival to the big league with twin centuries to help Windies script an epic victory. That moment was supposed to be the springboard to bigger things for a young batsmen who had always been rated highly. Three years since that watershed moment in Leeds, that heroic exploit has become a distant memory for Hope.

His ODI career did take off after those twin tons, but his fortunes in the Test format continue to tumble with the latest failure in England. In 41 innings since that Leeds Test, Hope has collected just 947 runs at an unflattering average of 24. His century tally has been barren and the two hundreds in Headingley remain the only occasions when he has breached triple figures in the format.

In the same duration, he has racked up eight ODI centuries while only being outscored by Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in the ODI format.

Ahead of the final Test

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