In recent years NASCAR has strived to make the sport more representative of an increasingly diverse America. With program’s like the Drive for Diversity and the Diversity Internship Program they have enhanced the visibility of the sport, and increased the opportunities for women and minorities interested in pursuing the NASCAR life.
Some notable alumni of the program include Jesus Hernandez, who drives in the Camping World East Series for Dale Earnhardt Inc., Paulie Harraka, a champion at All American Speedway for Bill McAnally and Marc Davis, a development driver with Joe Gibbs Racing.
So to the point of the post: despite NASCAR’s best efforts, no matter how hard they try, diversity can not be forced into the sport.
In this past week’s Diversity Combine at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Va., NASCAR’s Managing Director of Public Affairs Marcus Jadotte said it best, saying “Perhaps in a few years one of these drivers you see here today may land in the Sprint Cup Series, but ultimately that timeline will be determined not by some artificial attempt by NASCAR to put them there, but what they do on track and their ability to succeed.”
In a sport that is based on talent and money, attempts by NASCAR to artificially place drivers with teams is bound to fail when one of those two things does not pan out. This is evident when looking at the success of the drivers who have participated in the last four years.
Since the Drive for Diversity program was created in 2004, only Marc Davis has had serious opportunities to compete in the NASCAR’s top levels. He made his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start earlier this season at Gateway, and is slated to make his first Nationwide Series start before the end of the year. While other program drivers have had success, none have gotten over the hurdle of entering the sports’ highest levels full time.
The D4D program is certainly a step in the right direction and provides young drivers who may not otherwise have the opportunity a chance to show what they are made of. But the fact of the matter is, diversity will only be achieved because drivers demonstrate immense ambition and talent (this is true at every level of the business).
Just as an example, Marc Davis’ truck series start came because he and his father Harry went out and secured sponsorship, and negotiated a deal with Randy Moss Motorsports. That opportunity did not just fall into his lap.
I believe firmly that NASCAR’s goal is not far off. Just walk through the garage area on any given weekend and you can see the changing face. There are women and minorities in increasing numbers on pit crews, and in front office and official positions throughout the sport. There is however still work to be done for on track talent.
Ultimately NASCAR needs to realize that despite their best efforts, big time NASCAR teams are only going to bring drivers on when they believe they have talent and are ready for the big time. And you can bet when that right driver comes along, teams will be ready for them.