DOVER, Del. – Kyle Larson made a quick Zoom stop Saturday before he zipped off to his latest sprint car race: the NASCAR star had to say hello to the students at the Urban Youth Racing School.
“It’s good to be back racing again in NASCAR,” he told the class.
Larson’s road back to NASCAR after he was suspended last season for using a slur during an iRacing event can be traced in large part back to his heavy involvement with UYRS. The Philly-based program that creates opportunities in racing for minorities extended an olive branch last year to Larson and a fast friendship was formed with program founders Anthony and Michelle Martin.
In a sport in which minorities are scarce at all levels, the Martins made it their mission to introduce inner-city youngsters, most of them Black, to the motorsports world with the school. The school has served more than 7,500 students from ages 8 to 18 over the last 22 years and teaches all aspects of auto racing, including driving and Black racing history. UYRS uses a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum and students are quizzed and graded and compete for various year-end awards.
Larson surprised the school last year when he bought it two racing simulators and gave them a test run in September against select students. Chevrolet has since bought the school two more simulators.
“What kind of stuff will you guys work on, today, this year?” Larson asked the class of 15 students.
Martin and his staff had a full syllabus devoted to topics ranging from race car aerodynamics to a history lesson on the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, an auto racing event for top Black drivers in the 1920s and 1930s.
The students made model stock cars they were going to place in a miniature wind tunnel -- powered by CO2 cartridges -- and then use what they learned in competitive races against each other. The kids sanded their cars — think Pinewood Derby — to make them race ready.