Last Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, I had an opportunity to cover my first NASCAR sporting event for my sports website, Early Morning Coffee with BTH and what an experience it was.
At first, I was a little apprehensive covering a sport that a vast majority of minorities have very little interest in and one that southern whites gravitate towards in large numbers. Eventually, I decided that The Bank of America 500 should be a priority event to cover.
Although heavy rains were in the forecast, I was determined not to let inclement weather interfere with an opportunity to cover such a prestigious event. Upon my arrival to the CMS on Saturday morning, it started pouring down rain and I began feeling less and less optimistic about the weather improving by the 7 pm start time for this scheduled event.
When I was in route to pick up my media credential, I happened to witness confederate flags on pickup trucks and recreational vehicles, but nowhere near the amount that I had previously seen during a Winston Cup event in 2003 at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, NC.
Was that a good or bad thing? I guess it depends on a person's view about the flag. That's beyond the point though because I'm not writing this blog piece to debate anyone's view on the Confederate flag or even my own personal feelings towards it.
When I first entered the media room of the CMS, I couldn't help but think about the late, Thee Dixon who was the first modern era African-American team owner in NASCAR since the late Wendell Scott came on the scene in the 1950s. Scott is also the only African-American driver to ever win a premier level NASCAR race. Dixon featured his first Winston Cup entry in the late 1980s under the banner of Mansion Racing.
I thought about some of the challenges that Dixon faced as a team owner without ever having any major corporate sponsorship which is very vital for any team to survive on the NASCAR circuit. Even though the origin of the sport was during an era of segregation and discrimination, Dixon never pointed any fingers and was keenly aware that it wasn't NASCAR that kept him off of the track, but the lack of major sponsorship.
Even though I currently face some of the same challenges of obtaining sponsorship for my website, I imagine Dixon and Scott were looking down from those overcast skies smiling down on me knowing that their efforts to garner more minority interest in NASCAR weren't in vain. My hope is that more minorities will embrace a sport that appears to be willing to give them opportunities.
There will always be some resistance towards change by many of NASCAR's core fan base, but for years the industry has been embracing diversity. I’m sure from a marketing perspective; they are anxiously waiting for the Tiger Wood’s of the NASCAR industry.
Although some were friendlier than others, the overall reception I received from the staff at the CMS and also the motorsports media was very professional and heartwarming. Only a small percentage of those in the media room looked overly shocked to see an African-American covering an event that appeals to very few minorities, but the longer I stayed around, the more I felt accepted and welcomed.
Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to officially cover the event on race day because The Bank of America 500 was rescheduled for Sunday due to inclement weather, but the positive experience on Saturday made me realize that in regards to NASCAR, my website will not be a one and done in this sport.
Maybe one day I will get an exclusive interview with 2015 Bank Of America 500 winner Joey Logano. A long shot, but I certainly believe it will come to pass.