Sunday, January 27, 2008

5038: NASCAR and Race.

Make The Logo Bigger pointed out this latest story on NASCAR and its diversity issues. One thing to consider is the stereotyping associated with NASCAR fans; that is, there’s a perception that they are all a bunch of redneck yahoos. The fan base actually features a broad range of Whites, and most of them are upper- and middle-class suburban families. Not sure, however, if NASCAR has ever probed to see what percentage of its “diverse” White audience could be categorized as biased and racist.

Nascar’s Race Problem

by Melba Newsome

With growth stalled, a multibillion-dollar sports business looks to diversity for a jump start. But some Fortune 500 would-be sponsors fear that supporting minority drivers could set off a rebel yell.

Marc Davis was doing what Nascar drivers do all the time—getting even.

With 10 laps to go in a tight 200-lap race at Hickory Motor Speedway, Davis, then 16 years old, was fighting hard for the win when a rival tapped his rear bumper and sped around him as he tried to recover. On the next lap, Davis repaid the favor by thumping his competitor and causing him to spin out. Both ended up at the back of the pack. For the drivers, this was no big deal. Retaliation is part of the sideshow that gives Nascar its edge. But this episode had an extra element: Davis is black, and his rival, also a teenager, was white.

And Hickory, 50 miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, is Nascar bedrock, America’s oldest continuously operating motor speedway and the hallowed minor-league track where such legends as Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty cut their teeth. It attracts a hardcore following, an overwhelmingly white crowd that was perfectly happy when Nascar was just a backwater redneck sport. So though Davis had already proved his Nascar mettle by winning six races at Hickory that year, his tangling with a white driver caused an uproar among about a hundred fans, who stormed a fence surrounding the track, some of them chanting, “Go home, nigger!” Several were ejected from the stands.

As for Davis? He walked away like a driver from a bad crash, determined not to let the episode dampen his ambition to become one of the best drivers in the history of America’s second-most-watched sport. He had already inked a six-year deal with Joe Gibbs Racing, the powerhouse established by the famed Redskins head coach and run by his son J.D., and home to Nextel Cup Series contenders Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. By the 2007 season, Davis had graduated from the Hickory farm club to the Busch East Series, an East Coast racing circuit known for developing young racers, and finished in the top 10 among more than 70 drivers. When he turns 18 this June, Davis, a daredevil since his elementary-school years, is expected to climb yet one more Nascar rung, bringing him closer to his goal of racing against the likes of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Of the racial incident, Davis’ father and manager, Harry, says, “It is what it is, but I will not allow it to be a roadblock. Our only purpose is to race.”

[Read the full story here.]

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