Tinsley Hughes, a longtime African-American NASCAR team owner, is using Lowe¿s Motor Speedway¿s Summer Shootout Series as the foundation for his effort to increase minority participation in motorsports.

Hughes, a Charlotte, N.C., resident who has periodically fielded cars in NASCAR Winston Cup racing since 1989, has formed Hughes Motorsports Academy, a driver and crew member development program.

The goal of the academy, which is fielding two Thunder Roadsters in the 10-week Summer Shootout Series, is to give urban American youth an opportunity to develop the skills needed to eventually advance to NASCAR¿s top series as drivers or crew members.

¿When you look at the top three NASCAR series one thing is very obvious, the lack of diversity,¿ said Hughes. ¿It is not that African-Americans or other minorities do not have the desire to drive race cars or pursue a career in motorsports, it¿s that adequate funding is an obstacle.

¿Unlike most stick and ball sports, it takes significant capital in equipment to race. In addition, you¿re not going to find a race track at your local community park next to the basketball goals and soccer fields, so it takes a serious commitment and effort to race at any level.¿

Hughes recognized the need for a detailed plan and course of action to help young drivers in their quest to become future NASCAR stars. Participants in his development program gain valuable experience in driving, car set-up and other aspects of the motorsports industry.

¿There are already talented African-American and other minority drivers out there, but they lack the funding to move to the next level,¿ noted Hughes. ¿I want to help these young drivers succeed in this industry.¿

¿Tinsley Hughes is one of the hardest working, most positive people I know,¿ said H.A. ¿Humpy¿ Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe¿s Motor Speedway. ¿Our sport is fortunate to have a person of this caliber with vision and resolve.¿

In the early stages of developing its program, the Hughes Motorsports Academy is fielding Thunder Roadsters for drivers Reggie Primus and Kyle Beattie in the Summer Shootout Series.

¿The Thunder Roadsters provide a very good learning experience,¿ said Hughes. ¿The drivers get a feel for extremely competitive racing.¿

Primus, a 32-year-old African-American from Hartsville, S.C., first became interested in racing at age 5 after meeting 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Bobby Allison.

¿He let me sit in his race car and then he won the race the next day at Darlington,¿ said Primus. ¿I¿ve had the racing bug ever since.¿

After racing at dirt tracks in South Carolina, Primus decided to move to Concord to be closer to the racing industry. He knew of Hughes¿ involvement in racing and gave him a call.

¿I knew he was giving opportunities, so I got in touch with him and he gave me a chance,¿ said Primus.

Primus said his goals for the Summer Shootout season are to run competitively and earn a few victories. His long-term goals are to race for a living and make it as far up the racing ladder as possible.

¿I love racing,¿ he concluded.

Just past the halfway point of the season, Primus was ranked sixth in the Thunder Roadster point standings on the strength of five top-10 finishes, including a runner-up showing. His teammate, 19-year-old Beattie, was fifth with four top-five finishes.

¿I want to win as many Summer Shootout Series races as possible,¿ said Beattie, a Princeton, Ill., native who previously competed in Legends Cars and Bandoleros. ¿Eventually I want to win at least one Winston Cup Championship.¿

For information on the Hughes Motorsports Academy, call (704) 335-0770 or visit www.bhmotorsportsonline.com.

Lowe¿s Motor Speedway¿s Summer Shootout Series continues every Tuesday night through Aug. 12 featuring three classes of Legends Car racing, three divisions of Bandoleros competition and the Thunder Roadsters. Gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m.

Adult tickets are just $5 with children 6-12 admitted for $3 and kids under 6 free. Tickets are available in advance from the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or at Gates 4 and 5A the night of the event. Parking is free.