After having read through a lot of blogs and forums today I think this needs to be said: NASCAR is a multi-billion dollar company and it is run by highly qualified individuals. This idea that the sport is being run by a group of “good ol’ boys” is categorically wrong. This is not only true of the operations of NASCAR, but the operations of just about every large team in existence today. One look at the executives for NASCAR will tell you all you need to know. Few have been with the company more than 15 years, most have master’s degrees from top 25 universities and most hail from places outside the southeast. While it is true that many of the top positions within the company are held by white males, the growth of females and minorities within the sport is undeniable.
The new face of NASCAR management is young and very well educated. NASCAR’s Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer all have been named to Sports Business Journal’s 40 under 40; the 2008 list alone has two prominent NASCAR executives. A look at any list from any previous year will yield even more members in various positions throughout the company.
The same is true at the management of teams. Chip Ganassi Racing president Steve Lauletta, formerly with Miller Brewing Company, was named to the 40 under 40 list two years in a row and holds a bachelors from Notre Dame. Max Siegel, President of Global Operations for Dale Earnhardt Inc., joined the NASCAR community just over a year and a half ago joining Sam Belnavis, of Roush, as one of only two African-Americans in senior management positions in the sport. Siegel is a graduate with honors of the Notre Dame law school; in the years prior to coming to NASCAR he worked in the recording industry. One last example is Jay Frye at Red Bull Racing. The 43 year old has spent the last 16 years in the sport, most of them with MB2/Ginn Racing. Prior to that he worked with Valvoline and Anheuser-Busch. Needless to say these are just a few examples of the young group that are changing the face of the sport.
Down in the garage area there are an increasing number of officials that are young and educated; this includes women and minorities. While it is absolutely true that some ’good ol’ boys’ still work within the garage area, they are fast disappearing and this idea that they are the ones running the sport is way off base. With the exception of perhaps Mike Helton and Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s most senior management positions are held by individuals that worked in some other industry before they came to NASCAR.
The face of the sport is changing and has been for the last two decades. It is no longer just about racing on Sunday, it is about making money and growing this multi-billion dollar industry. So the next time some one tells you that it is the good ol’ boys that control the sport, you tell them how wrong they are.