This Sunday, NASCAR’s opening event featured a Black race director, grand marshal, driver and four owners – two with North Carolina ties – as well as a car proudly sporting HBCU colors.
Sunday’s Daytona 500, the opening event of the NASCAR season, showed the historically white-dominated sport may be succeeding in its push to attract new blood and expand its appeal.
Jusan Hamilton held sway as Daytona’s first-ever Black race director. Heisman winner and NFL Hall of Famer Charles Woodson was grand marshal. And four Black owners — two with North Carolina connections — fielded cars, the most in history for the event.
Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan (23XI Racing)
Ex-NBA player (and Jordan’s former North Carolina State teammate) Brad Daugherty (JTG Daugherty)
Entrepreneur John Cohen (NY Racing)
Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather (The Money Team Racing)
Bubba Wallace, who with Jordan makes the only top-tier pairing of a Black owner and a Black driver, finished in second place.
Cohen’s car, which matched the gold and black of his alma mater, Grambling State University, developed engine trouble but drew no shortage of HBCU fans taking pictures of the vehicle.
The sold-out event hints NASCAR’s efforts to diversify its traditional audience may be working. This year’s Busch Light Clash, the pre-season exhibition, had a halftime show with Ice Cube performing. The Daytona 500 sold out over a month in advance and counters estimated 120,000 spectators on site.