NASCAR: Is the Diversity program working?

 

The NASCAR diversity program has been an interesting dynamic for NASCAR.  NASCAR, historically, has not had many minorities break into the sport on either media nor as a driver side. Why minorities are having such a difficult time getting access to the sport is due to the resources, upbringing, lack of distribution, and racism. There has been some success in the program. However, NASCAR has a lot of work to do in order to achieve the goals of having a diverse group of NASCAR drivers.

Resources

One of the main reasons why motorsports are not pushed into the minority community is because of the lack of resources in certain areas. In the urban areas of the US, there are very little places that have go-kart racing. If some of them do have go-kart racing, they don’t have leagues in which they can sign their child up for it.

In Jessup, MD there is a go-kart raceway called the Autobahn Indoor Speedway where parents can sign their kids up for leagues. Jessup, MD is about 25-30 miles outside of Washington DC and about 20 miles outside of Baltimore, MD. This place is not accessible by public transportation unless you use Uber or Lyft to get there or your own personal car. For low-income families, they won’t be able to have the funds to be able to put the kids into motorsports. When there a is the lack of resources, it’s difficult to market motorsports to kids who have never been exposed to it.

Lack of Distribution

Distribution has been an issue with NASCAR for an extensive period of time. Most urban centers don’t have go-kart racing for minorities to have access to. One area that has that is Boston, Massachusetts. In the city of Boston, they have go-kart centers for kids and adults. F1 Boston is the name of the place where they have junior leagues and adult leagues. The closest NASCAR raceway to Boston is New Hampshire motor speedway. Other cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans, and Washington DC, where the population of African-Americans is a bit higher than most cities have less of a chance of having go-kart racing to start their kids at young ages. This is an area where NASCAR could improve in if they decided they want to start minority kids from young ages to get into NASCAR.

Upbringing

          Typically, most minority parents don’t put their kids into motorsports simply because of cost, access to motorsports, encouragement into other sports, the dangers of motorsports. Most minority parents would rather see their son or daughter play basketball, football, baseball, soccer. Those sports cost less money for them to play. It is easier to buy a football, basketball, baseball and a bat, or a soccer ball. A go-kart on the other hand or any of type vehicle required for motorsports costs more money. It’s easier to obtain scholarships for other sports than you do for motorsports. No colleges have motorsports as a sport to play at the NCAA level. If you can’t obtain an athletic scholarship for motorsports then why would a kid go into it?

Racism

           The race is a factor due to the fact that most minorities don’t feel welcome into the world of motorsports. Racism is the most sensitive topic of discussion for NASCAR because it was why the diversity program was created. The NASCAR diversity program was created to include more minorities into the sport. This would also bring in an untapped market of people that NASCAR hasn’t reached in a long time. The last time they had an impact on the minority market was when NASCAR had its first African-American driver; Wendell Scott.

Scott wasn’t the greatest driver but dealt with many issues of alleged sabotage to his car, lack of support and resources. He arrived during a time when racial tensions were very high but managed to overcome it to race. He was the first driver to win the major series which is today the Monster Energy Cup Series. His lone win opened a gateway for other African-Americans to become drivers and be successful.

Since Scott, there have been other drivers who have been successful such as Darrell Wallace Jr. aka “Bubba”. Wallace has been one of the most successful African-American drivers in all of the motorsports with multiple top five and top ten finishes. Even though he is good, he has been faced with controversy and backlash for his off the road activities. He dealt with backlash over attending the BET Awards in which some of his fans were not in support of it whatsoever. Wallace was fined by NASCAR $15000 for calling the NASCAR officials “Muppets”. Other drives have criticized NASCAR officiating but the majority of them didn’t receive a penalty for it.

Media Coverage

In the world of media, NASCAR hasn’t made it easy for minority journalists to come in to provide coverage for the sport. Most of the journalists are usually White-Americans who have been in the business longer than most African-American journalists. The main reason why black journalists haven’t been able to cover the sport is due to racial prejudice that has been ingrained in the sport for over an extensive period of time. The closest known media member was former NBA player, Brad Daugherty, who also owns his own motorsports team in NASCAR. At a point during his media career, he did cover NASCAR on a national level. Daugherty now covers basketball.

Successes

          Some of the success that NASCAR has had was more minority drivers are getting into the sport and are successful. An upcoming driver that a lot of media should be on the lookout for is Jay Beasley. Beasley became the first African-American driver to win a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ruben Garcia Jr. became the youngest driver to win a series championship at age 20. Garcia Jr. is of Mexican descent.

The program is working to get more minority drivers but the program has a long period of time to go. NASCAR needs to bring in minority media members to the sport to have a good representation of minorities in motorsports. NASCAR had many successes so far but in order to be more inclusive, they will have to make changes. They will need to address the lack of resources and distribution. The racism and minority media coverage must be dealt with in order for NASCAR to be taken seriously when it comes to diversity.

 

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