The New Face of NASCAR - Page 2 of 9

The New Face of NASCAR

race, when fans had gone home. Scott died in 1990 and has yet to be awarded a proper trophy, according to his daughter Sybil Scott.

It’s also no secret that drivers and owners have had a hard time existing longer than a season or two. Stock car racing is one of the last major American professional sports where blacks have struggled to gain presence. No African American drivers compete in NASCAR’s two top levels — the Nextel Cup and Busch Series. Lester, 43, is the only black driver competing in NASCAR’s third tier, the Craftsman Truck Series.

Ownership has also been challenged. Currently, there is only one African American team owner in all of NASCAR — 63-year-old Sam Belnavis. He has a minority stake in Rousch Racing.

NASCAR began its inroads into the minority market by opening tracks in urban centers such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago and establishing a diversity council in 2000. The council consists of 44 members who are drivers, owners, sponsors, and others connected to motor sports. The goal of the council, headed by Brian France, the organization’s new CEO and grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., is to address professional development as well as build a minority fan base.

Michael Warmack claims that NASCAR’s efforts are mostly window dressing. As director of business development for Grupo Mundo Inc., a Florida-based marketing and management company, Warmack is working to bring diversity to the motor sports industry. In 2003, Grupo Mundo structured a merchandising and marketing deal for rapper Nelly to sponsor a truck in the Craftsman Series. Warmack insists that NASCAR’s big push for diversity offers little substance and is only intended for the organization’s financial gain. “NASCAR has reached its apex,” he explains. “Their only option for growth is to look at other markets.” He believes that NASCAR has been more interested in featuring faces than actually developing drivers.

To Warmack’s point, NASCAR officials do acknowledge their financial goals. “We’re like any other sport or business,” says Pyne. “We’re trying to grow. All minorities are attractive for us. They have a significant amount of buying power. It’s good for our business. We’ll increase ticket sales; we’ll increase viewership; we’ll increase licensing.” Between 1998 and 2002, NASCAR’s fan base increased from 63 million to 75 million; total sponsorship exposure value for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, now known as the Nextel Cup Series, increased 208% from $1.2 billion to $3.7 billion. The organization’s licensed product sales grew from $950 million to over $2 billion. Though it trails the NFL in television ratings, NASCAR is squarely in second place with almost twice the network ratings as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

France says that NASCAR has a diversity budget and a plan, but will not elaborate. “We’re a private company, so we don’t release any numbers on financial matters,” he says. At the same time, he indicates that the company has no scientific measures in place to determine the effectiveness of its diversity plan as a business initiative. “One