April 3, 2018

Ashley Mackey

Diversity takes the driver’s seat in NASCAR

NASCAR hasn’t traditionally been known for its diversity.

Recently, however, the sport implemented a variety of programs to get people of color in the driver’s seat, on the pit crew teams and even add more journalists of color.

In October 2015, Richard Petty of Richard Petty Motorsports revealed Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. as the new driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet. The announcement made Wallace the first African-American to attempt to run a full NASCAR Cup series since Wendell Scott in 1969, according to NBC News.

NBC Sports also reported on Daniel Súarez when he became the first “Mexican-born driver to win a National NASCAR Series.”

Wallace, Súarez and Japanese-American driver Kyle Larson are a few of the champions for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.

Greg Capillupo, media coordinator of ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway), said the diversity programs are reaching many areas of NASCAR.

“It was basically focused on the Mexican drivers and then the black drivers. But what I’m seeing now is there are more black crew members than I’ve ever seen in my life, so that’s a good thing,” Capillupo said.

Pit crew member, Jorden Paige, said he had no interest in NASCAR before he was recruited from HBCU, Clark Atlanta University by the Drive for Diversity program.

“I was surprised by how many people had come through the program that I see hear every week,” Paige said.  “I’m trying to make a way for other people that go to my school. It’s still growing more and more.”

Just this year, NASCAR’s first African-American woman pit crew member, Brehanna Daniels, came through the Drive for Diversity program.

“At the time, I knew nothing about NASCAR, but I ended up going out to the tryout because I wasn’t doing anything at the time,” Daniels said about the pit crew tryout process. “I’m still gradually seeing the changes in NASCAR each and every day. It’s a male-dominated sport with Caucasians, but some of my friends that’s (sic) a part of the Drive for Diversity Program are African-American.”

Capillupo says seeing more diversity will help to promote more diversity.

“There wouldn’t be a woman in that garage 30 years ago. And the lady (Daniels) you mentioned with NASCAR. Huge! Big deal!,” Capillupo said.

Moves are also being made to make the media coverage more diverse. Since 2014, ISM Raceway has hosted the Photographer’s of Color (POC) Workshop organized by Hassan Kareem and Denise Meridith twice per year.

“It has come a long way,” Kareem said. “I remember a time when African-Americans couldn’t be in the stands at Daytona. The reality was, it was not conducive for people of color. And you fast-forward to now, and really it started with the time of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who kind of grew up in somewhat of the hip-hop era and they brought NASCAR and hip-hop together with Jay-Z and some other artists.”

Although Capillupo noticed the difference in diversity in the athletes, he said there’s still work to be done on the side of people of color covering the sport.

“I don’t really see any black reporters or anything like that, and that’s probably where they can get into that and get involved more,” Capillupo said. “All it can do is help, but it’s not quite there yet with the media.”