DAYTONA, Fla. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Speedweeks are officially underway at Daytona International Speedway. This is the first season a major NASCAR Cup Series team has a black driver and black owner under the same umbrella. Michael Jordan owns the team with Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace was brought on board as the driver.
Wallace was part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program, which is led by longtime NASCAR businessman and team owner Max Siegel.
Siegel’s road to NASCAR didn’t start at a racetrack, but on a football field when he was representing a player by the name of Reggie White.
“Reggie piqued my interest in it and we invested many years ago in Aric Almirola before the Drive for Diversity program,” said Siegel.
The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program started in 2004, which Siegel leads. The concept is a simple one, recruit women and minorities to the sport.
To date, 120 drivers and 120 crew members have gone through the program, which has drastically changed the faces of NASCAR compared to when Siegel joined the sport.
“Even with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated in 20 years ago there was probably one pit crew member of color and I certainly didn’t see any woman,” said Siegel.
The proof is now on pit road at every NASCAR event.
“It’s made me really proud to see how it is changing right before my eyes,” said Siegel.
Racing on the track has also changed with drivers like Bubba Wallace. 2020 was a pivotal year for Wallace and NASCAR.
“Probably one of the most powerful visuals for me was the support that he got from the entire community and the drivers walking down pit road before the race [Talladega],” said Siegel.
But there is still more work to be done. Siegel would like to see even more minority drivers and executives in the sport.
“And I think that will result with connecting with a more diverse fan base,” said Siegel.
Siegel is already in Florida for the Daytona 500. His team. REV Racing, is fielding cars in the ARCA Series and Xfinity Series event.