Some sports are continuing to grow and expand in regard to culture, especially in the last few years.
There’s no better example of this than in NASCAR, where a regional sport is starting to develop in several ways.
One of the biggest stories in 2021 was the emergence of an African American driver with Bubba Wallace. Not only did he go into the record books as the first African American to win a NASCAR race at its highest level since Wendell Scott in 1963, but he helped lead a movement within the sport.
Wallace spoke out about racial injustice in light of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. This led to changes directly to NASCAR policy, including banning Confederate flags at racetracks.
He’s not the only one, either.
Many other African Americans are finding their way into the sport and are trying to make doing that easier for future generations.
In addition to making some changes internally, there’s a recent surge of new celebrity ownership. With a couple of athletes and pop-culture stars becoming owners, there’s no telling where the sport is headed.
Let’s look deeper into the culture of NASCAR and how it’s changing in 2022.
The Brotherhood of NASCAR
Last year, NASCAR celebrated Black History Month with a docuseries about five African Americans who work on the pit crew for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The Brotherhood of NASCAR debuted on its YouTube channel and follows the team members around before the 2021 Daytona 500. The five pit-crew colleagues include:
- Mike Metcalf
- Jeremy Kimbrough
- Kenyatta Houston
- Jonathan Willard
- Marshall McFadden
Metcalf, whom the others refer to as “Big Brother,” is one of the leaders of his squad. He got the nickname for his wisdom and willingness to help others, outside of being the oldest of his four siblings.
The former college football player at Appalachian State discussed the importance of relationships, family, and respect. Metcalf said:
“I’ve always tried to make that a priority: If the only thing we do is good pit stops, that’s cool. But if we elevate ourselves as men, husbands and fathers — people in the community — I think that’s the bigger win.”
His conversations with team members expanded as NASCAR implemented its support for social change. Metcalf and Chip Ganassi pit coach Shaun Peet gave diversity and inclusion sensitivity training to all of the NASCAR pit crews.
He talked about his experiences in trying to broaden the perspectives of many of those within the industry. Metcalf said:
“It’s tough because you’re talking to your peers that they may not want to hear or just may not have thought about. We’ve just had a lot of conversations over the years about, man, what could the sport look like if we had a better understanding of how to interact with all different types of fans and what opportunities we are missing because we’ve thought through the same lenses for so long. This is how we’ve always done it could be the biggest thing prohibiting us from moving the sport forward in a really powerful way. Just trying to give everyone more tools to think about.”
He realizes that it takes time to open up certain viewpoints, but progress is made through a “united” group.
African Americans in NASCAR
The other four pit-crew members echoed a similar sentiment about NASCAR culture moving forward with education on diversity.
Kimbrough also has a football background, having played in the NFL for the Washington Commanders. He broke through into the racing industry after completing the 2016 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program.
Kimbrough is now the tire carrier for Ganassi’s Kurt Busch.
He spoke about how he thinks the Brotherhood is beneficial. Kimbrough said:
“The exposure is doing a good job. It’s opening eyes to a lot of people who wouldn’t normally look at NASCAR. It’s opportunity and it’s a good way to get that exposure.”
Houston actually played a part as an extra in Will Farrell’s nod to NASCAR culture, Talladega Nights, where he met several pit members and began working in the industry. Through Peet, Houston got introduced to Ganassi’s head pit coach Phil Horton and its developmental program. He’s now in his 17th season on a NASCAR team.
Houston wants others to see his success and understand that it’s possible for them. He said:
“With me and my opportunity, now I can use that to show the guy that looks like me and has probably been through what I’ve been through that hey, if I can do it, you can do it, too.”
NASCAR culture grows to include more celebrity owners
The sport is getting more popular in different celebrity circles, as several athletes and musicians are joining NASCAR.
The most notable may be the greatest basketball player to ever live, Michael Jordan. He co-owns the 23XI Racing team with driver Denny Hamlin, while pop artist Pitbull is also in the owner’s circle. He’s partnered with Justin Marks and co-owns the Trackhouse Racing Team.
Jordan’s brand made headlines last season thanks in part to signing Wallace as his driver.
While participating deserves some praise, both teams are showing they’re here to compete and win. Both expanded to two cars, with Busch now in control of Jordan’s No. 45 Toyota.
The attention added from noteworthy new ownership like this can excite different audiences that NASCAR might not have reached previously.
Other celebrities are taking a different approach.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is in an advisory role to assist in growing NASCAR’s fan base. He started in that position in June 2021.
Rapper Post Malone recorded his music video for the track “Motley Crew” and included the likes of Wallace and others all racing.
It’s clear there are additional eyes on the sport and that could lead to even more exposure going forward.
Wendell Scott NFT collection
As mentioned, Scott was the first African American to earn a victory in the Grand National Series. He took the checkered flag at the Jacksonville 200 in 1963.
Scott was also the first African American to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
Now, Wendell Scott Ventures is bringing a 3D NFT collection to commemorate his legacy. It is released on Nifty Gateway and hosted by Authentik Studios.
The NFTs are the first of their kind, with an exact replica of Scott’s winning 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air included.
The idea was introduced at the Hall of Fame when an auction provided the first Scott NFT giveaway. This March, more fans could begin acquiring a piece of history through this digital opportunity.