NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity campaign has been rather successful. Since it began, the program has helped several minority drivers get rides in NASCAR’s top-three series. Paulie Harraka, 23, is hoping to be the first of those drivers to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut.
Harraka will be attempting to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut with Go Green Racing at the Infineon Raceway next weekend. The team has prepared the No. 52 Ford with Ben Leslie as the crew chief. Harraka has worked with Go Green Racing before in the NASCAR Nationwide Series including a start this year at the Auto Club Speedway where he finished 35th due to an engine failure.
Since his NASCAR debut in 2008, Harraka has been able to race rather competitively. He won three NASCAR K&N West Series races in a span of two years while driving for a Mike Curb owned team. However, after not racing much in 2011, Harraka ran half of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule in 2012 with Wauters Motorsports. He had to run the ARCA Series race at Daytona in order to qualify for a restricter plate license with NASCAR before he ran the Truck Series race at the 2.5 mile superspeedway.
Though Harraka was able to land a job in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, it was with an upstart team without a major sponsor. The team’s crew chief was the owner, Richie Wauters. Wauters is a veteran in NASCAR’s third division and knows how to get the job down. However, it must have been too much for him to own a team, be a crew chief and coach a rookie driver.
Harraka’s results weren’t as well as they should have been. He had a best finish of 17th at Dover and Kentucky. However, he was able to qualify second in the first race back at the Rockingham Speedway, but his car didn’t handle right and he was lapped five times in that race. Harraka raced two NASCAR Nationwide Series races last season with Randy Hill Racing in conjunction with Go Green Racing. In those two races, Harraka showed that he can race moderately competitive in a higher level if given the equipment. However, it shouldn’t enable him to have enough experience to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Harraka did make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at the road course in Montreal with NEMCO Motorsports back in 2010 where he finished 29th due to a wreck. It’ll be interesting to see if Harraka makes the race with a team that usually runs 25th on a weekly basis in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.