Saturday, December 1, 2007

NASCAR TV Needs One Little Thing: Diversity


The weekend after the NEXTEL Cup Banquet is the real end of the season for many race fans. The reality that there is no more Tony, Junior or Jimmie really hits home when the last TV show says goodnight.

Memories of the races begin to mix with the fun of RaceDay, Trackside and Brent Musburger in his sneakers. With over one hundred and fifty hours of racing, and several hundred hours of "support programming," the Cup season is a television blur.

Over on the drag racing trail, the NHRA is also a professional racing series that lives its TV life on the ESPN Networks. The diversity of the classes mixed with the personalities of the drivers and the incredible speeds makes for a very entertaining TV package.

They also have a support show on ESPN2 called NHRA2Day. This thirty minute program is considered outstanding by most NHRA fans. It basically fills the role of NASCAR Countdown on ABC, the network's pre-race show.

Also, like NASCAR, the NHRA has regional and local racing series. As the national series cris-crosses the country, it visits the racetracks to hold legendary events visited by fans on sold-out weekends. Everyone gets into the pits for free.

There is one striking difference between the two series that really hits home after both of the end-of-season banquets. That is Tony Schumacher in the picture above, the 2007 Top Fuel Dragster Champion.

With Tony in the picture is Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown. Both of them finished in the top ten in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Also, finishing in the top twenty in Top Fuel were J.R. Todd, Melanie Troxel, and Hillary Will.

This past season in NHRA competition, the sex or the race of the drivers was an afterthought. J.R. Todd is the Kyle Busch of the series, a feisty driver with a hot foot that likes to go fast. He is a fan favorite. Mr. Todd is black. Antron Brown, pictured above, is graduating from the motorcycles to Top Fuel Dragster next season. He will be the NHRA face of Matco Tools.

The NHRA Awards Ceremony aired November 18th on ESPN2. It took place at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. Like NASCAR, the NHRA lost a pioneer this season when Wally Parks passed away at the age of 94. He was remembered in much the same way as Bill France Jr. was at the NASCAR banquet.

The NHRA Top Fuel Funny Car Champion this season was Tony Pedregon. He and his brother Cruz are two of the highest profile Hispanic drivers in the country. In his speech, delivered without a Teleprompter or notes, he put everything into perspective. He remembered his good friend Eric Medlen who lost his life in a practice crash, and his former boss John Force who had been injured in a similar accident. Then, he began to cry.

Wally Parks meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but he and the NHRA meant the world to a young second-generation racer struggling to make it to the big time. This was a TV moment not to be missed, and it reminded everyone at the ceremony how deeply this sport had touched all their lives.

As the TV cameras looked across the tables, the faces appeared to be very different from those at the NASCAR banquet. The well-dressed women who rose to come forward were not on the arm of the winner, they were the winner. The handsome Black and Hispanic men fit into the crowd like a glove, with everyone chatting and having what appeared to be a very good time.

Those TV cameras have a lot of power. They put into the minds of everyone watching images that form impressions. The impression of the NHRA was that a diverse group of people had come together after a tough season for a heartfelt awards ceremony.

The same simply could not be said of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Banquet. Try as they might, NASCAR had once again passively allowed the TV cameras to sent a message that contained a theme they just cannot escape. This sport is for white males.

Even a momentary mention of Juan Pablo Montoya was never followed by a single camera shot of that driver. Fortunately, it was during the only bright spot of the night when Tony Stewart delivered a speech that was possibly funnier than David Spade had been all evening.

The pressure is on NASCAR to find a way to diversify by giving opportunity to those who want it and can prove they have the ability. Continuing to import already established stars will only solve the problem for a short while. Hopefully, when the TV cameras pan across the crowd at a future banquet, the faces will be just a little more...diverse.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by and leave your opinion.

68 comments:

LuckyForward said...

If NASCAR ever really makes a commitment to diversity, my greatest fear is that the effort may reflect tokenism. What I mean is that NASCAR might possibly embrace diversity not because it really believes in opening the sport to others, but its attempt will be aimed at drawing more into the sport for one purpose only: to create a wider fan base through which it might make more MONEY.

Truly caring about diversity comes not only from efforts, but also the motivation behind those efforts . . .

NASCAR_IRL fan said...

Intriguing comparison between the NHRA and NASCAR. I appreciate the description and introduction to their athletes since I don't watch NHRA -I've heard of the Forces and Troxel and that's all. I wonder what the difference is in how they've achieved the diversity you describe so well?

One mistake I believe NASCAR is making is with Montoya: They are pounding "Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic" when JPM has fans in Russia, Japan, South Africa, all over Europe because of his racing skills and personality, not his race. The Ganassi people said they underestimated the demand for his #42 merchandise in other countries.

There was an interview online with a Mexican-American journalist, maybe from Telemundo, around the time of the fall Los Angeles race. He pointed out something I never considered: he said JPM isn't going to bring in some huge wave of Mexican-American fans from LA to the race, because he's Colombian, not Mexican. He pointed out just as many Americans root for Americans in international competition, Mexican-Americans want to root for a Mexican-American or Mexican, Brazilians want to root for Brazilians, and Colombians want a Colombian. That certainly doesn't apply to every single person, but I could see how that would be true in many cases.

So JPM may not be widen the fanbase by bringing in one specific race, but he can bring in international F1/open-wheel fans of many races to appreciate NASCAR if they look at it that way.

elena said...

nascar_irl fan, good point. I think that some athletes bring fans because they are international marquee athletes and not because of their race or country. They are more like rock stars.

David Beckham is trying to do what Pele did many years ago. And that's just to bring in fans (and that means money-like JD's 3 foot green guy), not necessarily of their race. When Wayne Grtzky came to Los Angeles, all the home games started to sell out, and not because a bunch of Canadiens were coming. He was married to an actress and brought glamour and curiosity--and it lasted for many years. (Unlike Beckham, Wayne played well.) Can you even imagine if Penske brought Helio? "Dancing" was seen by something like 30 million! And they are not all Portuguese.

Anonymous said...

Using the words "Diversity" and "Tokenism" in the same sentence implies that minorities are incapable of performing at the same level or better than their Caucasian counterparts. This mindset continues to be be a detrimental roadblock to NASCAR'S journey from outwardly racist and exclusive operations to the kind of thinking that will permit it to operate in 21st century society without such a negative image.

As long as there are people who believe and express such degrading thoughts, NASCAR racing will remain as retarded as so many of its fans are.

What minority in his or her right mind would want to be a part of such an anachronistic entity?

I am a highly educated, professional, black woman who is very passionate about the sport of racing. I attend races, spend money and enjoy every aspect of the competitions. Am I a token....?
More likely, I am an anomaly.

It is absurd to think that there are no people of color able to drive race cars proficiently just as it is absurd to continue to foster the racist attitudes for which NASCAR is so well known.

NASCAR is "white" because the "Powers that Be" want it that way. There isn't enough money in the world to make NASCAR want to change its white ways.......and there isn't enough money in the world to make any minority want to be a part of such a backward, racially exclusive enterprise.

I need to cancel my season tickets ....but I will not, because I have just as much right to attend races as anyone else. I am more than qualified.

Fear not, luckyforward. NASCAR'S motivation is not sincere and what you are worried about will never happen anyway. NASCAR needs to stop making excuses and so do you !

Angus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Does anyone who isn't hopelessly stuck in the '60's honestly believe that a Nascar owner with half a brain would reject a qualified driver because of his/her skin tone or ethnic heritage?

The whole "diversity" business is utter nonsense. Top owners compete FIERCELY for top developmental talent. Jack Roush is still mad about losing Kyle Busch and Joey Logano to better offers and Aric Almirola had no problems finding a new ride when he felt slighted by Gibbs.

The Erin Crocker debacle may make them cautious about female drivers -- making them wonder just which talents got her rides -- but if a young driver is winning races in the lower series they aren't going to care if he's white, black, hispanic, Asian, or Klingon.

The soft bigotry of low expectations -- setting lower hiring people for their skin color/ethnic heritage -- has no place in Nascar. Drivers who win races on the short tracks and in the regional series will climb the ladder. Drivers who don't, won't.

Though Eric Crocker probably set female drivers back 10 years, I'm expecting the first truly successful (I define success modestly at about the Kenny Wallace/Joe Nemechek level), female driver to come up the old-fashioned way -- by being part of a racing family. Unlike other recent, female, "drivers to watch" Chrissy Wallace wins races regularly in the divisions she's racing in.

When more black, hispanic, Asian, Klingon, and female drivers are winning in the lower series we'll see them move up to Nascar's top series. The developmental process can't be rushed.

Ken said...

I don't think the lack of diversity is about color. It's about money. Even the "poor" drivers are generally from families that have successful businesses that could afford to provide the equipment and support for learning to race. The average white kid has no more of a chance of making it in the "big league" racing than a minority kid.

Minorities excel in sports where it is inexpensive to play (basketball, football, baseball, etc) but only a few have the opportunity to succeed in expensive sports such as tennis, racing, golf, etc. There are a few exceptions (the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods).

Racing has become a rich man's sport. Gone are the days when a poor man could race. Gone are the days when I rooted for Wendall Scott who defied all odds to race. I rooted for him because of his determination against hugh odds, because he was from near where I lived and not because of his color.

Mike 24 said...

Theres not an owner out there that wouldnt hire a true talent regardless of his/her color, I dont care of that person was pink with polka dots.

I get tired of all this diversity crap, granted its a tough sport to break thru but maybe you should ask yourself why. Lets see how about strapping someone in a 3,400 pound missle traveling at 200 mph because he/she feels like they were discriminated against. Give me a break PLEASE.

Daly Planet Editor said...

mike,

Maybe there is a little bit more to that situation than just dismissing diversity as giving something to someone who did not earn it.

Unless your parents are in racing, or you have cash to finance your own way...how do you proceed?

You can't race well in high school or college, you can't get picked in the racing draft, and you can't just build your own car and race.

Its up to the sport itself to recognize that this single-minded feeder system is not working. It just repeats the same model over and over again, unless you are a good looking white male like Carl Edwards or Joey Lagano.

The single question is, how do you "include" others in a system that now passively excludes them because of cost? No one is saying give something to someone who does not deserve it.

Anonymous said...

In order to become a Nascar level driver, you will have to start at a very young age. Most of these top rated drivers began their quest into Nascar many years ago. This is not a sport where just one day someone decides to drive a racecar. The owners know which drivers will be best for them and their team. Nascar is not a stick and ball sport. I am sure they would embrace anyone of any color, they just would have to show the ability and be able to compete at this level. No one should just walk on due to their race. If Nascar is a so called "white sport" and you would like to see a more diverse field, well then you need to start thinking about the career early in childhood. Otherwise, don't just sit around and complain. Nascar was never meant to be like other sports, that is what makes it unique. If it just molds into what everyone else wants, then it loses that. I for one does not want to see that. I have been involved in racing all of my life like my father before me. People need to look at all aspects of the sport, don't be so self-centered.

Anonymous said...

Not always a young age, though it ususally is. Kasey Kahne didn't start competing until he was about 14, though he was watching and around racing events with his father earlier than that.

"Aric Almirola had no problems finding a new ride when he felt slighted by Gibbs."

That's because Max Seigel is at DEI and had his eye on Aric since he worked with Reggie White on his diversity initiative with Joe Gibbs racing, with Almirola as a participant.

Diversity takes development. Traditional NASCAR development doesn't develop diversity. It's not "utter nonsense."

One sad thing is that some fans don't want a minority/woman driver to succeed in NASCAR. I truly believe that. For some reason it is threatening to some, threatening to "our sport". I wonder if that plays into the minds of owners or sponsors when they decide who to give a ride to.

Take JJ Yeley. He's part Hispanic but it is NEVER mentioned (Christopher Beltram Hernandez Yeley is his name). But who can blame him? Even though he was an outstanding USAC racer (Triple Crown winner, only other one is Tony Stewart), he struggled somewhat in Cup, though this year he was improving (finished 21st in points) but lost his ride. I actually think he'll do very well with HOF Racing next year.

But think about if it was widely emphasized that he was part-Hispanic. Every wreck and run-in he's had would be, "see, that Drive for Diversity is so stupid!" not general "Yeley is wrecking again", similar to "Ragan is wrecking again". Sadly, people would bring race into it -they do it with Montoya all the time. I think it was a very wise move to de-emphasize his background and maybe he doesn't find it important.

I'm very disheartened that Erin Crocker and Ray Evernham did make it harder for female racers to get a ride in NASCAR. While I'm sure that's not what they were thinking initially - who knows what they were thinking - it is the end result. She had a big money sponsor who poured money into her, what sponsor is going to do that again intially for another talented racer - like blonde, attractive Jessica Helberg, who is 19 or 20? People would immediately cast suspicion on the owner who hired her.

Great opinion article, thank you.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:57AM,

No one is complaining. What we did was compare the NHRA and NASCAR end-of-season functions.

This topic has been going-on for years, as a TV writer I wanted to bring up the differences between the two professional racing series on ESPN.

I don't think anyone here has mentioned having anything "handed" to anyone else. Its just a discussion.

Defroct said...

Oh boy, here we go. The more the media, higher education and politicians push diversity, the more it diminishes the accomplishments of those they are trying to help. The same applies in NASCAR. ESPN and NASCAR hyped Montoya up so much, it has made a lot of fans unnecessarily jaded towards him. He is a fine driver, but he has not earned the accolades yet.

Diversity is an honorable goal, but it can’t be achieved by randomly grabbing interested people based on their race or gender.

Of course there are women and non-whites who have the natural ability to compete in NASCAR. That is NOT the issue.

The issue is how does a driver develop?

Other than having a name like Jarrett, Wallace, Earnhardt, Petty, Allison or Wood, the most notable way to get into NASCAR is to start racing anything – go-carts or whatever – at the age of 5, 6 or 7. If you have a tremendous amount of talent, and a lot of luck, you may turn out to be the next Gordon or Stewart. Fat chance. Drivers like Stewart and Gordon developed and refined their skills as pre-adolescents and adolescents to become two of the great drivers of this era. I do not believe that they could have developed into world class drivers if they first set foot in a race car in their late to mid teens.

Most people, regardless of race and gender, don’t have the natural gifts to compete at the NASCAR level. And most of the people who have the natural ability don’t get the breaks they need. That’s the reality. But those that do overcome the odds tend to be tremendous and they win championships. Johnson, Busch, Kenseth, Gordon and Stewart are the best today, and they, as far as I know, started young, worked hard, had gobs of talent and had a few breaks.

There appears to be a couple ways to make it to NASCAR:

Option 1

1) Have A Big Last Name (marginal talent will get you a long ways).

Option 2

1) Start Young To Develop Necessary Skills
2) Work Hard For Years At Local Tracks
3) Be Extremely Talented; and
4) Catch a Few Breaks.


With Option 2, you need all four. NASCAR can’t just insert someone at numbers 3 and 4.

It appears that local dirt tracks across the country (where talent is developed) do not attract many minorities as fans or participants. Until that changes, Diversity will lack. No matter how hard NASCAR or the media wish otherwise.

racemama74 said...

I for one don't care if a racer is black, white, purple, polka-dotted, male or female. It means little to me and the more we put emphasis on diversity, the less it seems genuine. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. NASCAR on its own should draw anyone who likes racing in, we shouldnt urbanize a sport to make it appear cool or whatever. Racing is cool on its own. The biggest problem is that NASCAR tends to lose itself in promotion and catering to whomever they want to draw in. The NHRA got it right, they did it quietly and let the racing do the talking and that is what NASCAR should do as well.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Though Eric Crocker probably set female drivers back 10 years, I'm expecting the first truly successful (I define success modestly at about the Kenny Wallace/Joe Nemechek level), female driver to come up the old-fashioned way -- by being part of a racing family. Unlike other recent, female, "drivers to watch" Chrissy Wallace wins races regularly in the divisions she's racing in.
December 2, 2007 8:16 AM

---Why in the world should we expect a successful female NASCAR driver to come from a racing family? I'm not doubting that Chrissy Wallace may be talented (I have no idea if she is or not). But if there is another woman more talented than her, why should she be penalized because her last name isn't Wallace and she doesn't have an "in" - money, name - like Chrissy Wallace?

If there is a female driver out there who has the raw skills and can end up having a better NASCAR career than middling Kenny Wallace or Joe Nemechek, why not find her and help her development? You talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations because of someones race or gender - well, it seems you're talking of the same thing in describing "success" for Chrissy Wallace, because K. Wallace and Nemechek aren't winners.

But it's OK if Chrissy Wallace,from a famous family, gets to NASCAR and has a career like theirs. While anybody else of minority or female status with those results would be run out of the sport. How is that fair?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:12 said: "Not always a young age, though it ususally is. Kasey Kahne didn't start competing until he was about 14, though he was watching and around racing events with his father earlier than that."

Yep, Mama Kahne put the brakes on racing until Kasey basically said he was going to begin racing no matter what. So she figured it was better to put him in one of his dad's cars than some unknown sprint.

But...while Kasey is a rarity because of his age, it must be said he had the money that is the other component of this discussion. His parents could afford both his local racing and to ship him off to Indy with equipment to get exposure. As Ken said, it's about money no matter what the race.

JD - another aspect of this diversity topic is Suzy Kolber and Brad Daughtery. While I would be quite happy if they are not part of the broadcasts next year because ESPN has too many people on their broadcasts, the vitriol and nastiness aimed at these two (not here, elsewhere online) is almost painful to see. No one mentions Rusty Wallace's race or gender when they talk about disliking his TV style (or Brent Musberger), but they somehow feel it necessary to mention with Suzy and Brad. That in itself should give us a snapshot of how many fans think.

On AOL Fanhouse, the blogger tallglassofmilk created a poll asking why NASCAR TV ratings were down, and one of the choices she put in her poll was - exact wording - "Suzy and Brad (aka ESPN's NASCAR ''Diversity'' Quota) Suck."

How about that choice got more votes as the reason for declining ratings than ones about the COT, Brian France, Rusty, or NASCAR itself. Pretty telling, if you ask me.

SophiaZ123 said...

Many good points on both sides of the diversity issue.

Frankly, I am so cynical of TPTB at NASCAR nothing is for the good of the FANS or upcoming drivers. It's for the Powers to make more money.

They have been alienating long time fans in a plethora of ways (New rules du jour, Top 35 still around, The Chase, crass commercialism exploded in the last 8 years, cross promotion as well, Lucky dog, ESPN coverage, COT, etc)

So why should we believe they really want a woman or minority to succeed? I think what Ray and Erin do is their own business but when the business is driving a car for the boss, that's risky.

Apparently this HAS ruined it for attractive women in sports for now.

But there are plenty of things wrong in IRL for drivers. Rookie drivers that have NO SKILLS or business on the track...causing problems...or even their own death.

The attractive Milka Duna with the what, 4 or 5 Masters Degree comes to mind. What was she 30 laps down in the last IRL? Even Ashley Judd said something on tv about her not belonging on the track.

I don't CARE that she is female, or attractive or speaks poor English. She has NO BUSINESS being in an IRL race. Period.

How did she get through the ranks?? hmmmmm by SEXING up her image?

Danica Patrick, while improving over the years has yet to win a race, which is ok as many MEN never win or rarely win, a race and have successful racing careers.

But how many men pose for CHEESECAKE photos and make sexy "come here baby" commercials to PROMOTE a product??? Again and again?

yes, I have enjoyed seeing Danica improve on the track but the DANICAMANIA of a couple years back annoyed me to NO END. I took her driving abilities LESS seriously.

Had she been a homely woman, she would have NEVER garnered such attention. Did she just cash in on the culture? Well maybe...but other women came up years ago in other ways and had to fight for their spots and put up with rude comments from old boy drivers.

I'd like to think we have come a long way since then, but apparently NOT.

As long as they have the SEXIEST driver awards and such, it's difficult to take any sport SERIOUSLY for driver talent only.

I have nothing against good looking people and am considered one myself (Not bragging, just lucky genes...we can't control how we came out of the womb!)

But the constant latching on to appearance for GOOD looks has been going on in sports for years since that blond woman in golf (Laura Baugh? in the 70's) and Suzy 'Chapstick the skier, before her.

The thing is, the glamourized culture PUSHES the issue so much that even I, as a female have difficulty taking women seriously and am cynical myself to the REASONS WHY somebody is driving.

Doesn't matter to me male or female or where they are from in their backgroun.

But honestly, I think if SOMEBODY wants to have a diversity program, talk less and show more actions where it counts. Behind the scenes.

I am weary of this political correct climate telling me how to THINK.

I am also tired of the go or go home guys due to the TOP 35 rule (which last time I looked, mainly works for white guys ;-) )

So much of my disenchantment in NASCAR has nothing to do with diversity but I think they could do a better job...but in private, behind closed doors. Not promoting themselves in commmercials with PROPERLY chosen faces.

I believe actions speak louder than words and content of character AND TALENT should be the bottom line.

Just my two cents.

Hey, and why can't Sarah Fisher get a better ride?

And am I the only one who remembers that after the news on Ray and Erin WENT PUBLIC, they glammed her up for a commercial with well coiffed hair and lots of make up.

Geez Louise, but I digress....kind of ....

Black Fan of NASCAR said...

Anonymous @ 3:54, while I understand your frustration because I've felt it, I interpreted luckyforward's comments in a totally different way and more positive way. I thought he or she was writing that the fear was NASCAR would only go after diversity for money purposes and luckyforward felt that wasn't right:Truly caring about diversity comes not only from efforts, but also the motivation behind those efforts . . .

However, I believe NASCAR, like many big companies, is focused on money. If you follow Brian France's comments over the past few years, at first he was focused on getting African-Americans to watch and participate. But the US Hispanic population is now bigger than the African-American population, and I read in his Wall Street Journal interview earlier this fall - he said NASCAR was focusing on being relevant to Hispanics because of where many of the tracks were located.

I also saw a quote late last year on Jayski, some anonymous former Winston Cup (not Nextel) executive told a paper the focus needed to be on getting Hispanics to become fans, not African-Americans. I believe Humpy Wheeler has also said that's something they may need to consider. It's almost like it's an either/or proposition for them. Apparently you can't have both Hispanic and Black fans.

All very confusing. The NHRA way sounds better.

I gotta say the best thing about being a fan of NASCAR when no one else is - then your family and friends think it's charming and quaint. They try to keep up with the NASCAR news on TV so they can mention it to you, and they buy you anything they see in the store that says "NASCAR" on it. Did y'all know there's a NASCAR chapstick? :-)

SophiaZ123 said...

Blackfan of Nascar

Did not know about the NASCAR Chapstick.

I can do you one better....did you know there is a BRAND of NASCAR potatoes? :-)

I have the photo to prove it but can't put the link here....I laughed out loud when I discovered them at one market a couple years ago..but they were on sale at the time. Still are sold there.

I think NASCAR is TOTALLY insincere and the Hispanic versus Black fans is absurd. It's all about the talk which as we all know is cheap...UNLIKE the cost for many working folks to attend races these days.

Much like the rest of NASCAR's "fantasy induced thinking" they have no clue what the fans want even though they are leaving more and more.

BF is too busy making up excuses that things are "much better than they appear."

He is a self absorbed JERK.

You can blame NASCAR's problems on diversity but it is much more complicated than that...as JD has written about many layers of the problem here all year long.

But obviously, NASCAR could learn from NHRA

wb4dei said...

Diversity?!?
Why do some groups need to be taken by the hand and introduced to NASCAR? Either you like it or you don't! This whole diversity thing is a joke! Look what diversity did to espn. Brad Dougherty and Suzy Kolber are perfect examples of how stupid this whole diversity thing is. The two of them are about as dumb as a box-O-rocks!

Daly Planet Editor said...

wb4dei,

I think there is a bit of a difference between ESPN making questionable choices for announcers and the broader issue of diversity in the sport.

The TV networks are always going to be endless sources of amusement. That is the way it has always been.

NASCAR, however, has been working with guys like Roush and Gibbs to present opportunities for regional or Truck Series rides for minority drivers who are competing and just need the same kind of a hand up the ladder that others get from their parents or their financial circumstances.

Don't fool yourself that who you are now seeing on the track are the most talented drivers. In many cases they came with nice big wallets already attached and sponsor logos all ready to go on the car.

elena said...

Folks, let's face it, this is just a passtime for millions who dream about being a star driver. It's just a dream! Just like being a basketball player. Not many will get to the pros or even the colligiate level. Let's not fool minority kids into thinking everyone can make it. And if he does not make it, it's because he's black or hispanic.

My son played varsity water polo in high school. His high school was usually in first place in their league and finalist in state competition. Not one kid in his high school got a scholarship to play in college. I think some kids played as walk-ons, but none rose in the colligiate level. Since it is seen as a "white" sport, does anyone think my son should have identified himself as a minority? The blood running through his veins had nothing to do with ability. He would have been a dream candidate, hard worker,good looking, well-mannered, and a straight-A student. The problem was that while good, not as good as many others. (My son does not physically look like a minority person.)

Many minorities would be better off making sure their kids study, stay out of trouble, and have life goals. I love NASCAR, but know that there aren't 100,000 drivers who can make a living by racing. I think Carl and Ryan Newman and others who have gone to school are good role models. The fact that Petty is donating some of the old cars to colleges is a good thing. Maybe being part of the racing community does not mean you have to be a driver. You can work in the garage. Too many people want to start at the top.

One thing that NASCAR and track owners could do is fill some empty seats with kids from the minority community. It's too expensive for many to buy tickets (for black or white), but if seats are not sold out within 24 hours of a race,they could establish a program to bring kids into the stands free of charge.

I was a volunteer at a theater for many years. And the goals of the theater owners was to always have a full house. It's better for the performers, and the whole ambience of the production. So if it was not a sold out performance 24 hours before curtain, they had a list of senior citizen homes, and they would offer the tickets free. The homes provided the transportation and any special need of their guest. All the theater did was give out tickets. It was great, the house was always full, the performers loved it, and it gave some individuals a chance to see a live performance. The house still made money--they got a tax-deduction, publicity, sold refreshments and programs, and made new fans.

Having retired from a school district, I can tell you it would require a lot planning, and a lot of hard work. But it can be done. It would be like a field trip. Start out small, maybe just bring in a bus with 75 kids to start. Give them them the VIP treatment. Since the most NASCAR visits a track is twice a year, it would be a slow beggining, but something they could build on year after year. Mean time the kids would get the racing bug and more likely to go to a local track.

Anonymous said...

I think what is so great about the NHRA is that the "diversity" doesn't seemed forced. It happens that the cream rises to the top and that includes blacks, Hispanics and women.

Nascar is another issue. It all seems forced. From what I've read, Evernham deliberately set out to find a female racer. Not the best racer to develop, but a female. Kasey Kahne brought him Erin and the rest is history. Crappy performance in Nascar races and then the scandal of an under-performing driver sleeping with the boss, who kept her in a ride, even without a sponsor. Because of this, as others have said, females will be looked at with suspicion in Nascar, but in the NHRA you don't have this crap and they just compete and do well on there own.

The point is, when you try to force it, sometimes it will blow up in your face and fans will see it for what it is, a side show.

Let people come up through the ranks and stand and fall on their own merits, not on a "free pass" due to race, ethnicity or gender.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the NASCAR folks need to talk to the NHRA folks and find out why they can get a diverse group of racers and NASCAR can't.

I somehow don't think it's because NASCAR is "forcing" diversity and NHRA isn't. That's just an easy way for fans to say NASCAR isn't responsible for change. Evernham had the right idea - Crocker had the World of Outlaws credentials and a victory to make her look like a good candidate. He didn't simply pluck her off the street.

NHRA/NASCAR difference may have to do with the track environment (are the entry level drag racing tracks more open and welcoming to minorities than the dirt track communities of NASCAR?) or cost (is the cost of entry level drag racing much less than entry level stock car racing?).

Or both. If anyone has heard of Marc Davis, he's a black teenager who has a development deal with Joe Gibbs racing. Those folks who read the NY Times NASCAR coverage regularly probably saw the following in a story last year:
--------------------
Davis notched six victories in the Limited Late Model series at Hickory this year. Davis, though, was one of several drivers subjected to racial epithets as they tried to move up in the sport.

The Davis incident followed an on-track confrontation between Davis and another driver.

“It was 100-plus fans charged down to the fence or even where they were sitting just yelling racial slurs,” said Tracy Dean, a local reporter for a Web site who was covering the race at Hickory. “I thought we’d come a long way. Apparently, we have a long way to go. He was just about to come to tears.”

A handful of fans were ejected from the racetrack.
-----------------

How many kids are going to want to put up with racial taunting at a local track, spending tens of thousands of dollars along the way, when they can play other sports less cheaply and not have to deal with racial conflict as much or at all?

I feel bad for the NASCAR executives/car owners. Some of them are sincere in wanting more diversity, but some of the fanbase probably doesn't feel the same.

elena said...

The NHRA has been able to tap into something that urban kids have been doing for more than 50 years. And that's drag racing.

I had a student about ten years ago that told me about getting arrested for drag racing in city streets. There was a whole culture out there. They would race late at night, after 11 or midnight. They would choose different streets each time to avoid cops and regular citizens.

When I asked him if he'd ever watched NASCAR? He laughed! He felt there was no thrill in watching someone drive in circles for 3-4 hours.

So drag racing is a natural for many kids. It's fast and risky, and you have a winner right away.

Bill H said...

Nascar should implement a form of "spring training", during the off season, have open try outs in Homestead and California where anyone with a license and a desire can try their hand at a few laps on the track. Nascar supplies the cars. If the person shows any talent they are offered a "scholarship", one year in NC to learn how to race on the tracks there in cars provided by Nascar. This will also give all the teams that are in that area a chance to "scout" this talent and possibly offer them rides in the following year.

BillWebz

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with this picture ?

There are minority astronauts, doctors, airline pilots, military generals, biochemists, bankers, business owners and every other successful occupation in the world.
For some reason, there are no minorities stupid enough and good looking enough to drive race cars 200 mph for 5 hours.

There must be some other cause for the exclusion of non-whites from NASCAR.

What could the reason for exclusion possibly be ?

Excuses, excuses, excuses.

This world can do just about anything it wants to, whenever it wants to.

Men have walked on the moon.

Black men do not race in NASCAR.

How can that be in 2007 ?

How can it be ?

I've got an idea.
Let NASCAR continue to be a racially exclusive sport.

It does not deserve to be a part of mainstream society. Rather, it should wallow in its racist,sickening ignorance.

The sport and the unfortunate fans deserve each other.

Richard in N.C. said...

I really do feel it is easy to understate the significance Of Max Siegel and his position at DEI. I heard recently (probably on ESPN) that there are over 110 schools playing football in the top NCAA level - but only 5 or 6 schools have an Afro-American head coach. Max Siegel is the de facto, day-to-day head of one of the 7 or 8 top NASCAR Cup teams. In the long run Max Siegel will probably have more impact than all but, maybe, 3 or 4 current drivers - particularly since he is constantly operating in areas where few drivers get involved, and since he is exceptionally talented. Also, the significance of the team that Max S. leads (Dale Earnhardt Inc.)cannot be overstated - especially since it appears that part of Max's job is to be the face of the team since Teresa does not want to be.

Ritchie said...

Thank you Mr. Daly for writing a very thoughtful article about NASCAR diversity.

It is way too easy for fans, especially white fans, to say that if a minority driver wants to race, he should simply go find a ride. The fact is that the barriers to entry are almost insurmountable for a white, male driver trying to get his start in the sport. Imagine yourself in the position of a minority, walking into a small, late-model shop in a small town and asking a owner (an WHITE owner which you probably have nothing in common with) for a ride. Put yourself in that position and you may see why so few minorities are in NASCAR today.

My local short track is the best example of the uphill battle minorities face in this business. When Gibbs racing put Aric Almirola in a late model during their diversity program, they came to race at Ace Speedway near Greensboro, NC. They created a near riot when Mr. Almirola came to the track with a Gibbs prepared car. I firmly believe that the other drivers were truly upset by the superior car, but without a doubt the racial undertones were there. How can I be sure? Because Terry Labonte's son had raced there a few years earlier, and no one complained.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Regarding female drivers, I hope the Erin Crocker "legacy" doesn't last long and that some of the up and comers can get a chance. Jessica Helberg was mentioned above; there's also Gabi DiCarlo who ran the full ARCA season this year and finished 11th in the points. I think they're both in their very early 20s, just the right age for a major team to start putting some development money into them or someone like them. Otherwise we'll lose a whole generation of twentysomething drivers who've been driving for years -lose them because of one driver and one owner's personal issues - and be waiting for the 12 year olds who are out there go-karting right now. Can NASCAR really afford to wait that long?

Anonymous said...

there's also Gabi DiCarlo who ran the full ARCA season this year and finished 11th in the points.

....And Gabi finished 11th in points even though she's a full time college student enrolled at Arizona State.

These diverse drivers and their stories are out there: the teams have to give them the seat time and equipment they need and the sponsors have to take a chance and fund them.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:31PM,

Could you re-phrase your comment in a way that states your view of the subject matter?

In this comments section, we all talk about our opinions and real life experiences. We would look forward to you adding your thoughts.

JD

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
elena said...

I guess some people who write here have never heard of Jeff Gordon and what he's had to endure since day one. I got to give it to Jeff, he is not thin-skinned. He never uses it to denigrate the people who treat him shabbily.

It isn't just what they say, it's also stuff they throw at him. It could be dangerous, so excuse me for bringing up that other drivers also suffer the stigma of not being a "good ole boy."

When Jimmie Johnson brought a little girl from "Make a Wish" to driver introductions, he had to warn her ahead of time not to be alarmed because people were going to boo him loudly.

Ever go to a Little League game? Nothing to do with race. Though my son was not a good baseball player, he got on the team on his own merit. Every time he went up to bat, I could see him fight off tears from all the taunts from opposing players. His coach was great and found ways to lift his spirit. The ability to overcome adversity served him well, as he served in the US Army for 6 years.

elena said...

ps, my son only played Little League baseball unitl he was 9 years old. On his own he decided he was not good enough to compete. My husband and I supported him (batting practice, catching, running), but it just was not our thing. We liked water sports and eventually my son ended up taking up water polo.

Anonymous said...

Was Jeff Gordon taunted with racial epithets when he was in his middle teens? I don't think so.

Yeah, people said mean things (uncalled for) to Jeff Gordon after he started winning in NASCAR, but before then he was extremely popular and nationally well known in his sprint car days. At least he had that experience before someone tried to bring him down.

Anonymous said...

#1 "It is absurd to think that there are no people of color able to drive race cars proficiently"
--------------------------------
If they could they would have a ride, period!!! Get over it!!!


#2 "NASCAR is "white" because the "Powers that Be" want it that way. There isn't enough money in the world to make NASCAR want to change its white ways.......and there isn't enough money in the world to make any minority want to be a part of such a backward, racially exclusive enterprise."
---------------------------------
Talk about a racist comment; "powers that be want it that way"! Did you not say you were black and attended races, doesn't that make you part of it?
--------------------------------
I have a really good black friend and he, his dad and I have been to several races together and he has never once "felt out of place"!!!

Some of you will never be happy, why White America still tries is beyond me!!! Yes, there are just as many racist of color as there are white racist in this contry!

Anonymous said...

"You can't race in high school or college, you can't get picked in the racing draft, and you can't just build your own car and race."
---------------------------------

These are the same reasons "auto racing" of any kind will NEVER come close to being as big or popular as the other sports.

Anonymous said...

"so excuse me for bringing up that other drivers also suffer the stigma of not being a "good ole boy."

Whether a white male driver can be considered a good ole boy or not (and may garner some boos as he is introduced at the track), he'll still have an easier time being hired in the current state of NASCAR than a minority or female.

Jimmie Johnson made 15 million dollars this year; at least he's had the chance to ply his trade and make an amazing amount of money, "pretty boy" stigma or not.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:51PM,

I am going to leave your comment up there, but you need to calm down a bit. The whole point is to read what others think, and then respond with your own views.

Remember, what we are talking about is how the NHRA has quietly and fully integrated itself, and this is not a black vs. white issue.

The NASCAR struggle includes Hispanics, women, and the other minority members of society in general. Trust me, its been driving NASCAR nuts for years, no pun intended.

If we could get some positive feedback about what can be done, that would be great. As a TV writer, there was no greater disparity than the two banquets of my favorite racing series.

JD

wickedj said...

this topic has drove me nuts for years because ive always maintained(sp) if a woman wanted to race then she would have worked her way here by now. im sorry to say but the current "crop" of women drivers SUCK. Tina Gordon and Kelly Sutton and Deborah Renshaw arent good drivers and arent the future female face of the sport. neither is Erin Evern..i mean Crocker. my local speedways here in Ohio(Lorain County Speedway..Benny Parsons won a ARCA race here in the 60s and Sandusky Speedway where Tim Richmond was a track champion) have females who drive Spectator/Hobby stock (Berettas...Probes...etc) and theyve done good but i stand by my opinion if they were THAT good someone would be calling them

the same can be said for "minorities" (why do we still use this word?) Bill Lester may be the nicest guy alive...sad to say hes not going to cut it in NASCAR which is why hes rideless

all that said.. WHY DOES IT MATTER??? wether your british, american, or from some island in the middle of nowhere..as long as you can drive and win races then you get a ride...this drive for diversity thing is stupid..how about the drive for finding the next Joey Logano

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I think a part of NHRA's greater diversity is a result of less expense to go drag racing and (the straight-liners will howl) easier to learn to drag race than stock car race. My brother-in-law does some amateur drag racing, does vitually all the work on his car himself, and I believe does not spend more than a couple $1,000 per year - and I believe sometimes has sold his dragsters at a profit.

It appears that the Cup and Busch teams employ many more people than the NHRA pro teams do and I do know the Cup and Busch teams employ women and minorities in the shops, offices and in the pits, but I have never seen any figures.

Anonymous said...

The new majority owner of Gillett-Evernham, George Gillett, must also see diversity as an issue. He said he didn't think it was healthy for NASCAR to have the same set of drivers move from ride to ride for years on end, and thinks there should be new drivers coming in.

He said he was planning a TV series for development drivers (it sounds similar to the Roush Gong Show/Driver X).

"The driver development area is an area that we feel very passionately about. I think you’ll see us do some interesting things in driver development. I think you’ll see us create a whole new television series on driver development with a whole new thought and idea. I can’t really go any further, but we’ve got a number of brilliant young drivers – male, female, national and international already signed up for the series. I think you’ll see us doing some fun things there.'

SPEED, ESPN2, are you listening? Contact George G. so we can watch this show.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:23AM,

I will ask you again to phrase your comment in terms of your opinion. All you did was ask theoretical questions.

If you chose to come back, calm down and leave the whole left-wing liberal media thing outside.

No one else in these posts needed to get angry, and no one chose to make this a black vs. white issue. As I told you before, we are talking about change, not yelling at it.

If you read the rules on the main page, you will see we do not tolerate hate in this blog...period.

JD

LuckyForward said...

To "Black Fan of NASCAR" - you were totally correct in the interpretation of my comments.

Your statement: I interpreted luckyforward's comments in a totally different way and more positive way. I thought he or she was writing that the fear was NASCAR would only go after diversity for money purposes and luckyforward felt that wasn't right: Truly caring about diversity comes not only from efforts, but also the motivation behind those efforts.

Thank you for clarifying my words better than I did originally.

elena said...

According to anon 12/2 at 10:50pm "The new majority owner of Gillett-Evernham, George Gillett, must also see diversity as an issue. He said he didn't think it was healthy for NASCAR to have the same set of drivers move from ride to ride for years on end, and thinks there should be new drivers coming in. "

What on earth does that mean? Does he mean he's going to dump Kasey Kane or Elliott Saddler and hire some new kid? Does he mean he never plans on hiring a veteran?

I might agree some drivers should quit, like Kyle Petty, but who has the right to tell him to retire? So he hasn't won in 12 years, but it's his car!

Let's see who GEM hires next time. Talk is cheap.

Anonymous said...

The GEM owner hired French-Canadian Patrick Carpentier for the 2008 third car (#10) with Kasey and Elliott. He didn't hire the standard NASCAR veteran. Time will tell if it works out.

Anonymous said...

elena, George Gillett also owns or co-owns professional hockey and English soccer teams. Coming from that perspective, when an athlete doesn't perform, he's benched, traded, or out of the sport all together and a new one is drafted or traded for.

So from reading the above, I'd speculate he sees the Jeff Greens and (I'm a fan but) Kenny Schraders, Kenny Wallaces, Kyle Pettys, Joe Nemecheks of the world and wondering what they're doing running Cup races, whether some of the time or all of the time, when someone new could be brought in who might have better results.

I hope that TV show comes through -sounds good.

Anonymous said...

I just found Gillett's specific comment:

I think that as you look at what it takes to win in this sport, the idea that we're all dealing with a relatively small number of athletes and they sort of rotate, I don't think that's very healthy for the sport. So I think we're going to be looking at bringing some new people like Patrick Carpentier, who brings both a new skill set and a new personality. I think that's good for the sport.

elena said...

So I guess that George Gillett dumped David Stremme to hire a Canadian former IndyCar and Champ driver with over 10 years experience and this he calls diversity? Yeah, some people don't walk their talk.

I bet Ron Fellows has sent him his resume.

Anonymous said...

No. It's Scottish Dario Franchitti at Ganassi who's taking over for Stremme, not Patrick Carpentier at GEM, who is replacing Scott Riggs.

I don't believe that Gillett was addressing diversity in his hiring of Carpentier. He wasn't asked about it. He said new drivers were needed instead of the same ones that rotate. He didn't specify what type of new driver.

I believe it was more in the driver development program TV series, where he mentioned female and international drivers are signed up, where he would see any future diversity.

elena said...

who knows who anon is. is it one person or 3?

I agree with the revised George comment. You hire who you think will win, because that's what's good for the sport. I happen to be a fan of Juan, Dario, Patrick, Ambrose, and Jacques.

Bottom line is, like T.Boone Pickens likes to say, "It's my money and I get to spend it the way I want to."

Anonymous said...

It was one anon who was trying to answer your question, (last three comments) but I'm not understanding you and I give up.

Gillett's quote wasn't revised. It was the same meaning as originally posted by another anon. I just provided the actual comment.

Summary: New drivers and personalities are needed instead of the same drivers who rotate, Gillett is establishing a driver development program to provide gender and possibly racial diversity and new blood, but Carpentier is not a part of driver development.

elena said...

okay, anon, truce. My comments all were dealing with the first comment at 10:50 which implied in the first 2 sentences that George must see diversity as an issue and new drivers should come in.

I questioned whether he would dump Kasey and Elliott.

Then anon at 12:37 no mention of diversity, but rather a defense of hiring Patrick.

My comments were set in motion over the comments at 10:50. I'm glad you cleared up at 12:50, that that is not what George said.

My final comment. :>)

glenc1 said...

Thanks, John, for this ‘mostly’ intelligent discussion. I have long pondered why this has worked so much better in the NHRA than in NASCAR. I tried to bring up the subject on a message board years ago, only to have it yanked by the administrator…someone who worked in NASCAR and insisted no one in NASCAR’s governing body is racist (which I had not suggested.) But years later, little has changed. I think they’re going about it in the wrong way, for the reasons many have said. It’s hard for *any* talented driver to make it, regardless of their sex or color. Many drivers have made it simply because they brought the money and/or sponsorship or a famous last name—it will get someone in the door, although it probably won’t sustain unless there’s talent behind it. I think those who mentioned starting them younger and having more urban programs are on the right track, pun intended. Gets the fans into it as well as the potential drivers. I also do believe that there are pockets of racism/sexism, certain tracks where you know not all are welcome. I’ve heard comments at NASCAR events that sickened me, so I know those people are still out there. But I think what it’s really going to take is to convince *sponsors* and the owners to take aim at the minority and female audience—as we know, it’s all about the money. Any untapped market is a potential revenue source. While it might embarrass some to have ‘Luvable Bras’ or ‘Butt-paste’ on a hood, that’s where the money comes from. And to the black female race fan—I enjoyed hearing your perspective…I do think NASCAR is very sincere about money…and if minorities bring money, then they are sincere…in a somewhat roundabout way. And I know they are sincere about their image (since image affects the money), and I believe it embarrasses them that people think of the sport as backwards.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey Everybody,

Great comments. I have had a lot of email from both NASCAR types and folks in the TV industry saying they read your comments and it really hit them hard.

Thanks to elena for bringing up the topic in the first place.

JD

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with minorities in the sport and would like very much to see more. What I don't like are the t.v. stations (and the media in general) treating minority racers like they are a novelty and obsessing over them.

This past season, the media's obsession was Juan Pablo Montoya. Two things really turned me off where he was concerned: the near-constant yacking about him and his overall arrogant attitude. He came across as nothing more than a jerk in any interview I ever stomached. He never took responsibility for his actions on the track and placed blame elsewhere.

This is NOT what earns fans, this is what turns people off and makes them angry that a minority is in their beloved sport.

While I am in no way, nor will I ever be, a Juan Pablo Montoya fan, I am a fan of Marcos Ambrose. He's funny, down-to-earth and genuinely grateful to have the opportunity he has in the Busch and Cup series. He also lets this be known on camera. I spent fifteen minutes at the souvenir trailer at TMS this past October talking about Marcos Ambrose with the guy who runs the trailer. This kind gentleman has met Marcos (several times, from what I gathered), and couldn't say enough nice things about him. He says that Marcos Ambrose is 'as real as they get.'
THIS is what fans want. I really don't know that it matters to everyone where a driver is from or what color his skin is-we want nice guys, not arrogant snobs. We want drivers who truly appreciate where they are and appreciate their fans, as well. We want drivers who have the testicular fortitude to step up to the proverbial plate and admit when they make a mistake on the track. We want this same driver to apologize on camera to the driver they wronged and his, or her, fans.

I'm excited that Dario Franchitti is going to be running some races next year. It seems that he made a real effort to fit in this past season by introducing himself to as many drivers as he could and wearing his racing suit pant legs outside his racing boots, not inside them. He adapted. He comes across as a decent guy, too, but then again, I can't imagine that Ashley Judd would marry someone who was a jerk.

I'm also looking forward to seeing Helio Castraneves on the track. Just seeing bits and pieces of him on Dancing With the Stars and how silly he can be, how much fun he had while competing, appeals to me.

Take Bill Lester who runs the truck series. Super-smart guy and you never read or hear anything bad about him. The fans love him, including this one. I'd love to see more interviews with him and read more stories about him. If I was a black kid racing in any of the smaller series, Bill Lester would be my #1 hero and I would seek him out for advice. This guy is definitely a good role model-for any young racer.

elena said...

JD,
Thanks
Grazie
obrigada
gracias
merci beaucoup
danke schon

elena :>)
(in the spirit of diversity)

Anonymous said...

Daly Planet Editor said...
Hey Everybody,

Great comments. I have had a lot of email from both NASCAR types and folks in the TV industry saying they read your comments and it really hit them hard.

Thanks to elena for bringing up the topic in the first place.

JD

December 3, 2007 7:58 PM

No offense, but I thought it was the poster who said they were 22 years old who brought it up. Who saw no minorities at the banquet and wrote the post about it.

It was in the blog "Banquet Lessons are Hard To Teach". 3:52 p.m., December1. I didn't read any posts anywhere concerning the banquet mentioning it before then, and I read the live comments too. (I checked it again now). I'm commenting because I thought it was a very thoughtful post and it made me think. Thanks to you and thanks to whoever wrote that post.

AndyPandy said...

To swing this back to an old, long running discussion, one of the small steps that can be taken is to open NASCAR up to all competitors by letting the fastest 43 cars run. Period. Zero provisionals, I don't care who your sponsor is or if you are leading in points, top 43 or go home (see 'failed to make the cut' in golf).

When there is a better chance of making a race, smaller teams may pool their resources and work together to get a driver in, who may happen be a (insert minority group here) driver.

The system as it is now seems to equally value driving skill and marketability, as pressure seems to be increasing from sponsors to hire whoever they think can sell the most widgets for them on TV. They don't seem to understand that if new faces have a better chance to make a race, those drivers will acquire fans and will increase sales of whatever product is splashed on their hoods, which just may lead to a more diverse field.

Desmond said...

I agree with Richard that drag racing is easier to get into than NASCAR racing, which is why it is more diverse. NHRA is simply a more organized version of the illegal street races, which are popular in the ethnic areas near where I live.

Certainly, the reputation of NASCAR is not very good among my family and friends, due to the association with white Southern "rednecks." Several times, I have had to defend my love of NASCAR to my parents. (In case you haven't guessed already, I am African-American.)

I would like to see a more natural progression of blacks, women, and other underrepresented groups into NASCAR than the organized programs that seem to have the hidden motive of squeezing more money out of more kinds of people. Elena's plan to offer free admission to school and church groups is a good step in that direction. This would expose them to NASCAR racing and give them an alternative. After all, not everyone in the ethnic communities can play pro football or basketball or soccer.

I also propose to start a Little League-style program. NASCAR could sanction the various kart tracks throughout the country, and there would be national championship competitions for various age groups and national telecasts. This would expose the best future NASCAR drivers of all backgrounds.

In response to other posters, I agree that Bill Lester has gotten a raw deal and that Helio Castroneves would be great, but more for his personality that his ethnicity.

As for the effects on TV, the ratings would increase, but only short-term. That driver would still have to perform, or the novelty wears off. Just see what has happened to Danica Patrick in the IRL.

Monkeesfan said...

Where has NASCAR ever needed "diversity"? "Diversity" is a euphemism for filling quotas, and the sport doesn't need that. One can hardly find where "diversity" ever improved a sport's popularity; fans didn't come to games or races because of "diversity," they came to see good competition.

Richard in N.C. said...

It seems to me a perfect place for NASCAR to start would be for it to sponsor the Soap Box Derby - and yes I realize they have no engines, but you have to start somewhere.

Also, I do not remember all the details, but there is (or was) a program in Philadelphia (I believe inner-city) to expose young people to auto racing. Several colleges and community colleges in NC now have programs to prepare students for jobs in various areas in NASCAR- not including driving.

elena said...

It seems like there are a lot of people who have contributed ideas and suggestions to make NASCAR participation for more minorities. That’s a good conversation. I think that there is also an obligation of the minority leaders to ask themselves, okay, what are we going to do to make this happen? These leaders have to get into the trenches and encourage families to get involved.

A common thread with most of the drivers, rich or poor, is that they got involved as a family. Jimmie Johnson was raised in a mobile home park. He comes from a blue-color family that did not have wealth, but spent all their time off with their kids. Mom and dad did not have their own hobbies that did not include the kids.

The best determiner of success for the future of including new race fans is to start them young and make it a shared family experience. Some kids and families have never experience doing stuff together. Since their parents never did it, and their parent’s parents never did it, it is very hard to get started. I know this first hand. Even though my family spent weekends doing family stuff together (boring-visiting relatives), it was stuff my mom’s family had done for generation after generation, and there’s no way we would have gone to a race. So if parents are used to just letting kids fend for themselves and prefer to watch tv or whatever, it really takes effort to get them to change.

Besides, there’s also the fear of going somewhere for the first time. You don’t know how to act, what to bring, how much to spend, all the unwritten rules, etc. I mean people just don’t like to look foolish. I remember many years ago getting a last minute invitation to a wrestling match by friends who were fanatical about wrestling.(Ring-side seats) They said they’d pick me up at a certain time. Well, I was ready on time. When my friend came to the door, she just about fainted. She could not believe what I was wearing. She said, “You look like you’re going to a football game!” She was dress in evening wear and so was her husband. They looked like they were going to a Hollywood party. Talk about feeling foolish.

elena said...

Richard in NC, that is a super idea. It includes so many of the ideas that are shared with NASCAR, like following rules, good sportsmanship, and committment. I like that because it's a parent-child activity. What nice is that you can either make it from scratch or buy a kit you put together.

My son did not do the Soap Box, but he did the Pinewood Derby. That is also a lot of fun, and requires parents to help, but not do it for their kids. Talk about parallels to NASCAR, the do all the pre-race inspections, the weight, car dimensions, underbody clearance, etc. When you buy the kits, they even have NASCAR decals.

I think you can go on the Internet and find if they are doing it in your town. If they are, invite a kid, or offer to be a volunteer. We were not very good our first year, but we got better after that.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't watch NASCAR because I tihnk it's a joke that I have yet to see in the races I had to watch with a friend who is a fan not one Afro-American figure in NASCAR and all it's mrketing. I find it hard to believe there isn't one driver who lacks the interest or talent to become a respected driver. I'm talking bottom line, nothing else. I base my opinion on pure observation. It probably doesn't help flying the Confederate flag in Alabama either where to many it's a symbol of pride and many backgrouds. To my a caucasian and I'm sure at least a few blacks it represents a symbol of the darkest period imo in American history when select states which are mostly today's most popular NASCA states were at war in part for defense to the right to have black slaves. I hope that NASCAR making its way to the west in Cali and Vegas more people will start asking the same quesion I just Googled that led me to this link....disturbingly the only link result for "why aren't there more Afro-American NASCAR drivers? I am in awe this is not a more popular question raised in the media and public. I have asked many sports editors to write on this subject. Not one response including from Yahoo. I hope the day comes in my lifetime it happens and people aren't in denial or fear of raising this question.

Tunadude