PHILADELPHIA – A street course for go-karts on the Avenue of the Republic in the City of Brotherly Love provided the setting for a day of fun and friendly competition on Friday.
The Urban Youth Racing School Grand Prix of Philadelphia with Kyle Larson and Friends was the event that brought a turnout of plenty of kids and adults eager to see some of NASCAR’s stars. Larson was joined by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman, William Byron and Chase Elliott.
A number of Chevrolet's NASCAR Cup Series drivers were also on hand: Ross Chastain, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. In addition, drivers Cole Custer, Max Gutierrez, Jesse Iwuji and Lavar Scott participated. NASCAR president Steve Phelps was among the dignitaries on hand and served as one of the grand marshals for the event.
Hendrick Motorsports has been a long-time supporter of the UYRS and was one of the sponsors of the event. Team partners Ally, Axalta, Chevrolet and Valvoline were also heavily involved.
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Drivers were paired off with other participants into four-person teams. Larson’s group came in third for a podium finish, while Austin and Ty Dillon’s teams finished first and second, respectively.
Larson, the reigning Cup Series champion, has enjoyed a long relationship with the UYRS. The 29-year-old from Elk Grove, California, has been working with the school since 2017.
"I wanted to do my part to give back, so it’s nice to have a pretty heavy involvement in this (event) and get a lot of the other Chevy drivers here," Larson said. "It’s been a great turnout. Fun event. That’s what it is meant for."
For Elliott, the opportunity to reach a different audience and play a role in exposing young people to racing was a great experience.
"It’s a good opportunity and a nice bridge to our sport," the 2020 Cup champion said. "To allow people to learn more about racing - it’s more than going fast and turning left. There’s a lot of avenues you can get involved in in the industry."
Earlier in the day, Ally hosted its fourth-annual Fueling Futures program where students learned about prospective career paths in racing. Bowman took part in a question-and-answer session with former professional football player, Bernard Pollard.
In developing a close relationship with the UYRS, Larson sees first-hand the impact the school has made in helping the younger generation find an outlet they may not have known about or considered. Last year, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 visited the school with his Cup championship trophy. He also has purchased two racing simulators for the school and conducted virtual visits in addition to in-person ones.
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The UYRS was established in Philadelphia in 1998 by Anthony Martin, whose passion for motor sports led him to create the school. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to exposing inner-city youth from the ages of 8 to 18 to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) career opportunities in the motor sports industry through training, education and on-track driving experience. According to its website, the UYRS has impacted the lives of more than 7,500 at-risk youth.
"Anthony and Michelle (Martin), the Urban Youth Racing School, they do a great job of introducing these kids to motor sports," Larson said.
"Having events like this. Letting them come out and watch all of us race, and some people probably the first time ever behind the wheel of a go-kart. It just sparks interest. There’s a lot of business opportunities within motor sports. It’s not just being a driver. I hope we are making a lot of new race fans."