I read with interest – and to be honest, a large degree of agitation – your NASCAR article on www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/7908/ – 40k – (where “The Unfinished Line” was first run). Chris, I’m on vacation but since the piece maligns the good people in the industry (calling the majority of the thousands of people working in NASCAR “rednecks”) and fails to acknowledge many positive changes occuring in recent years throughout the entire sport, I feel a responsiblilty to directly write to you.
The heart of your issue with NASCAR seems to be the belief “NASCAR is still showing no signs of accepting blacks in any capacity even at this late date. They stick by their racism no matter what the cost.”
Chris, this is completely off base and terribly unfair. The reality is, NASCAR has been working very hard to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment. And yes, it comes “from the top.” NASCAR Chairman and and CEO Brian France said in 2000 that making NASCAR look more like America was his top corporate priority. Under Brian’s leadership, the NASCAR industry has accomplished a lot in creating opportunities on and off the race track for minorities and women. Here is a summary of off-the-track and on-the-track progress in Diversity.
Off the track:
· Since 2000 – 170 students have interned in the NASCAR industry solely through the Diversity Internship Program. A growing number of participants in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program are now employed full-time in various entities throughout the industry such as teams, agencies, sponsors, racetracks, and NASCAR, the sanctioning body. Outside of this program, NASCAR teams, agencies, and racetracks also employ a number people from many diverse backgrounds.
· Approx. 10,000 college students learned more about NASCAR through the NASCAR College Tour Delivered by UPS at events at Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs) & Universities & Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
· NASCAR has provided scholarships to the Hispanic Association for Colleges and Universities, United Negro College Fund and DeVos Scholarship Fund.
· NASCAR participates in many civil rights and professional conferences throughout the year such as NAACP, NCLR, LULAC, and the Urban League.
· NASCAR’s Diversity Mentorship Program affords ethnically diverse students of HSIs and HBCUs the opportunity to experience NASCAR first hand by exposing them to the many different career opportunities within the sport.
· NASCAR held its first Annual Diversity Affairs Luncheon in February 2008, highlighting accomplishments in the area of diversity across the industry.
· NASCAR Diversity Affairs hosts local business and community leaders at races in key markets to expose them to the various aspects of the sport and to identify business opportunities.
On the track:
More Hispanic, African American, and female Drivers are competing….as well as serving in important positions behind the scenes – as officials, engineers, and team owners.
Since the creation of Drive for Diversity (D4D) in 2004, 25 drivers who are minorities or women have driven in NASCAR’s developmental series. (On the race track, throughout ALL levels of NASCAR, the sport has a greater variety of diverse participants than ever – just look at the NASCAR Camping World East series where nearly 1/3 of the field is comprised of women and minority drivers. At the end of the 2008 season, three of the top five drivers in points in the NASCAR Camping World Series were minority.
Drive for Diversity has been expanded to include a program geared towards grooming minority pit crew members; as well as reaching participants at a younger age with the inclusion of the World Karting Association (WKA).
With the help of our sponsors, and partners, NASCAR has enhanced our outreach to include diverse youth groups across the country.
Indeed, as many are pointing out, there currently is no black or female driver in the Sprint Cup Series. But that doesn’t mean the Drive for Diversity program is not successful. The program is designed to create opportunities for women and minorities, and is succeeding on that front. It takes years to develop professional athletes. All NASCAR can do is create the opportunities. We don’t run the teams and we can’t place drivers on the track in our top series. We’d ask you to see the program in that context – creating opportunities.
Overall, with respect to diversity both on and off the track, there’s still opportunity ahead, and you can be sure the NASCAR team will continue to develop and improve ideas and initiatives. With support from the entire industry, NASCAR will continue to become a more welcoming and inclusive sport while broadening NASCAR’s reach.
Chris, clearly, there is more to do. But NASCAR has in recent years taken important steps in diversity.
If you’d like to learn more about NASCAR’s strong and enduring commitment to diversity, we can personally discuss this with you. I’ve copied our head of Diversiy, Marcus Jadotte. Either of us would be happy to chat to share with you details of our growing diversity programs.
Director of Business and Multicultural Communications