NASCAR is facing a new race dilemma - which has nothing to do with track conditions.
The CONDE NAST PORTFOLIO drives up news of the racing circuit’s attempt to bring in more minority fans, which only comprises about 18% of their total fan base. The efforts come as ticket sales and TV ratings are starting to trail off after recent years of surging business.
However, NASCAR also has concerns that such moves could alienate its strong, southern (i.e. redneck) support. Aspiring driver Marc Davis, who’s African-American, remembers an episode about 2 years ago during a race in Hickory, NC.
With about 10 laps to go, Davis was bumped by another driver, who was white, and was passed by him. When Davis caught up to the driver, he returned the favor, causing the bumpman to spin out.
As the accident occurred, about a hundred fans ran down from the stands and surrounded the fence, yelling & screaming at Davis, with chants of “Go home, n—er!”
Brad Daugherty, former NBA star & one-time NASCAR team owner, says it’s difficult to find corporate sponsors willing to pony up for a minority racer, since the companies would be afraid of consumer backlash against their products:
“If you’re going to put an African-American or a face of color in your truck, your corporate sponsors have to agree. I’ve sat in meetings with Fortune 500 companies that are interested in helping me put together a program, but at the end of the day, all they want to know is ‘How does NASCAR feel about it?‘”
Currently, there are no African-American drivers in the top NASCAR tiers. But NASCAR chairman Brian France is trying to bring a little color to the perceived whitewash:
“I remain not only committed but convinced that if we don’t get diversity right, this sport will not achieve what it needs from a popularity standpoint, won’t get the best drivers, won’t get the best talent on the management side, won’t get the fan base that we deserve.”
What, they don’t have the best fans already?