African Americans Make History in NASCAR

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Rows of enclosed car-hauler trailers, some as long as 53 feet, fill the parking lot at Riverhead Raceway in Riverhead, New York. Race teams unlock their trailers, roll out their race cars onto the parking lot, then do the behind-the-scenes magic. The pit crews hoist the cars and replace the worn-out tires with Hoosier racing tires. Each tire weighs about 25 pounds, and a full set costs roughly $780. A transmitter is placed underneath the car to log the speed, the steering wheel is attached, engines and oil pipes are checked, and the checklist goes on.

Different styles of cars are participating across the four separate divisions on a Wednesday night: Tour Modifieds, Blunderbusts, INEX Legends and Street Stocks. The cars are decorated in vinyl graphics, paint and decals ranging from hot pink to lime green. The NASCAR logo represents the vibrancy and speed of the sport with slanted horizontal stripes of different widths in yellow, red, and blue preceding the bold acronym NASCAR in white or black text. The diversity of colors is evident by looking at the cars, but absent among the faces of drivers, pit crew members, officials and fans.

Riverhead Raceway is the only NASCAR stock car track in the New York metropolitan area.  It is part of NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series, the NASCAR equivalent of the minor leagues in professional baseball, and has been operating since 1951, about three years after NASCAR was established. NASCAR’s first race, in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1948 had all white male drivers, and 70 years later the sport remains predominantly white.  The most notable African-American drivers can be counted on one hand.  Wendall Scott is the first African-American to have a national series win, NASCAR’s highest level, at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1963. And it took 40 more years for the second African-American, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., to win a national series NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.

Wrenches are cranking, air compressors are vibrating, engines are revving, people are moving swiftly to prepare cars for inspection, and occasionally there are announcements projected through the indecipherable public address system. The Riverhead motor pit looks like a neighborhood of trailer homes, about the size of a football field, where everyone is moving in on the same day.

Among the 150-plus crew members stationed in the pit representing the 68 teams, there is one African- American standing out in the sea of white faces. He goes by the name Bobby. Bobby, who is in his middle 40s, is dressed in khaki shorts and a black “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt.  He just finished changing the tires on the car of his best friend, Dave Brigati.  Bobby was introduced to NASCAR through Brigati’s family during childhood when they played baseball together in Coram, New York.  He’s been connected to the sport ever since and now has mastered changing tires. “There’s not many black folks in the sport but over time I’ve seen more and more black guys in the pit when we’re on the road.  I grew up in this area, so this track is home to me,” Bobby says.

Beyond the sea of faces in the motor pit, there’s a wave of fans in the audience. Even on a Wednesday night, clusters of families fill half of the bleachers that seat a capacity of 4,000. Preteens crowd the border of the track and have indents on their arms or foreheads from standing and pressing against the metal fence to see the action on the track. Earplugs are essential. So are glasses, or something to protect your eyes.  For fans sitting close to the quarter-mile asphalt, high-banked oval track, pieces of tire fly in the air from burning rubber combined with debris and sand.  Moving through the wave of fans, there is not a black face in the crowd at Riverhead. Just Bobby, in the pit.

Why aren’t there more black faces in the sport? There’s Wallace, who is still racing; Brehanna Daniels, the first African-American female tire changer in the national series; NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program; and Melissa Harville-Lebron, the first African-American female licensed NASCAR sole team owner. NASCAR is a popular sport among white Americans, particularly in the Southeast. But where is the diversity?

Harville-Lebron started her own NASCAR racing team because of her two sons. A former corrections officer at Rikers Island and the current owner of a music label, she did not have a background in racing. “I have never seen a light in their eyes the way I did when they were at a race. I knew I had to support them along the way,” Harville-Lebron says. They caught the racing bug. There is an adrenaline that kicks in after watching a race for the first time in person. You become one with the sound of the engines, rush of the 80+ mph speed, sight of the smoking engines, jolt of the car crashes, menace of the tailgating.  For those who enjoy driving in general, there’s a connection that leaves one thinking, “I could do this. This looks fun.”

The racing bug hits at any age. Wallace caught the bug at 9 years old.  When he accompanied his father to get a motorcycle repaired at a shop in Alabama, the repairman invited them to a go-kart race.  His father asked him if he wanted to try racing a go-kart. He gave it a shot and instantly become hooked.  Wallace began competing in Jr. Sportsman Champ Karts when he was 13 years old. A year later, he competed across the Southeast in Bandolero cars and Legends and won 35 of the 48 races; he was the first driver to win five races in one week. To build the momentum of his success in local level races he applied to participate in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.

In efforts to promote diversity among drivers and pit crew members, in 2004 NASCAR launched Drive for Diversity, which targets women and non-white athletes primarily through a driving program.  There are also initiatives to help attract a more diverse audience to the sport through ownership and sponsorship roles as well as a pit crew program. To help train the drivers in an academy-like setting, Max Siegel and his wife, Jennifer, started Rev Racing, a NASCAR-licensed developmental racing team.  Siegel owns a sports, marketing, entertainment and media holding company, Max Seigel Inc. He is also the CEO of USA Track and Field. Before running Drive for Diversity, he was the highest-ranking African-American executive in NASCAR, as the former president of global operations of Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company founded by seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and his wife, Kelley, before he died in a crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.  Siegel has invested about $3 million in Rev Racing and secured funding from companies including Toyota, Nike and Sunoco.  A small number of the drivers from Rev Racing moved on to the national series, most notably Wallace.

Wallace is the only African-American driver currently racing today in the national circuit.  But there is a history of black drivers between the 1920s and 1940s well before NASCAR was founded. Dubbed the “Negro Speed King” by white reporters, Charlie Wiggins, showcased his skills in the Colored Speedway Association (CSA).  Wiggins, who ran an auto repair shop on the south side of Indianapolis, built his own race car between shifts in the garage.  He named his car “The Wiggins Special.”

He eventually participated in the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, the Negro version of the Indiana Sweepstakes, and outraced everyone by two full laps, winning the race and dominating future sweepstakes.

"'Wee' Charlie Wiggins, that plucky young mechanic from Indiana, had to build a special seat in his chassis to boost his tiny body, so that he could reach the gears of his homemade creation,” the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper, wrote in 1926. “But at the end of this grand Gold and Glory event, it was not the mechanics that mattered, but the mechanic himself. As Wiggins crossed the finish line well ahead of the pack, a wild burst of applause greeted him from his home-towners, some of whom lost their heads and ran across the track, despite the yells from cooler heads, warning them that other drivers were still pushing their metal steeds at top speed for second place honors. In the end, no one was hurt, and Wiggins welcomed the stirring ovation."

Another pioneer racer, Joie Ray, was a skilled open-wheel and stock-car driver, but lacked finances – a setback that remains today in 2018 for African-Americans.  Ray’s career existed solely through luck. When he saw a race car for sale for $450, he placed a $1 bet in the illegal numbers lottery and surprisingly won the amount he needed.  He bought the car and won two feature races. He helped start the involvement of African-Americans in the CSA. The association fell apart, like many businesses and organizations, due to the economic strain from the Great Depression.

When NASCAR was conceived in 1947, there was not a counterpart for black drivers such as the Negro League in baseball and its equivalent in other sports, which were eventually integrated into the previously all-white professional leagues. The CSA didn’t grow into anything. It didn't function as a scouting and developmental league for NASCAR the way the Negro League did for baseball.

NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program is an unreliable pipeline for drivers to become professionals.  Drivers typically drive in the development league series either through Rev Racing or other teams. Drivers who graduate from the program serve as independent agents looking to be a backup driver on a high-level professional team. The transition for drivers from the development league to teams that race in the national series happens by luck. There are three drivers from the program who race in the highest level of the national series, including Wallace.

Wallace is the most distinguished African-American driver from Rev Racing and the Drive for Diversity program.

He was signed as a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and won his very first race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.  He eventually won the series’ Rookie of the Year Award, the first African-American to win a Rookie of the Year award in a NASCAR series.

Harville-Lebron’s E2 Northeast Motorsports participated in its first race this year at Daytona International Speedway in partnership with another team, Copp Motorsports.  The driver was from Copp Motorsports’ team, Scott Stenzel. And the paperwork and registration was under E2 Northeast Motorsports. Harville-Lebron was unsure that her car was going to pass registration, so she partnered as a sponsor with a friend of a business friend, D.J. Copp, a former pit crew member who now owns Copp Motorsports.  Stenzel, the driver representing E2 Northeast Motorsports, is white. Although the driver was white, her team had a presence at a national division race, which is an important milestone.

“Besides the Daytona race we are still self-financed, but we have had a lot of wonderful offers put on the table,” Harville-Lebron says. “We’ll see what comes to fruition, but with corporate sponsorship we're always months out. By the time we ink a deal the season may be over. Hopefully we'll be able to get on the track and show them what our next step is going to be. I’ve had some offers in other states, but I don’t want to uproot my family to bind into the sponsorships.”

Harville-Lebron, 47, is a single mother of seven children from 10 years old to 25. She has full custody of four children she adopted from her brother and her sister.

Prior to her venture in racing she had made an impact on many lives as a mental health captain for the New York City Department of Correction, where she provided treatment to mentally ill patients coming from the prison ward at Bellevue Hospital.

“When the inmates were either released or rejected from Bellevue they came to me for psychiatric treatment,” Harville-Lebron says.

But one day an inmate who was trying to escape got a hold of pepper spray and sprayed it in the air.  Harville-Lebron had a severe asthma attack and had to seek medical treatment.  Due to the severity of her asthma she was forced to retire from her job.

“Mental illness was a part of my childhood,” she says, explaining why she wanted to be a mental health captain. “My mother has a mental illness.  A couple of family members, family friends. It does plague our community. It does and at times it goes undiagnosed and you see that a lot with some people having impulsive behavior, alcoholism, drug abuse but sometimes we just don't take the time find out, to get down to the core issue of where is this behavior coming from. I really enjoyed trying to get to the core issue at my job.”

As a retired corrections officer, serving for 19 years, Harville-Lebron still applies her mental health work to her own children.

On an average day during the summer, her iPhone alarm rings at 4:45 a.m.  She wakes up, walks around her house in upstate New York to check on her father who has Alzheimer disease and then her kids.  She does this out of habit to make sure everyone is healthy.  She checks her phone for emails and runs through her calendar to get a sense of her day and prepare for meetings.

Music label meetings, racing meetings, doctor appointments, sponsorship pitching meetings, personal meetings, team meetings and somewhere in between time with family watching movies or playing outside with the four youngest kids.

During the school year, free time is scarcer and family time turns into spending time doing homework. “During the school year, I get the oldest one up for high school - that’s my nephew, he is 14,” she says, referring to one of her adopted sons. “I may get him out the door at 6:15 a.m. and then the middle one leaves at 7:20 a.m. and then the baby, thank God, wakes up somewhere around 11-ish a.m.”

Luckily, her father lives in the house, so he can keep eyes on the kids, and occasionally she has close friends who help. In between making several road trips to Atlanta to build relationships for sponsors, this summer, she has spent as much time checking on the health of her two children.

“It was a very unique situation dealing with the first child which was my niece.  She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and I didn’t know it presents at the age of 13,” Harville-Lebron says. “So that was difficult and then the youngest one, he's 10. There's a genetic component to his disorder that I didn't know.”

Harville-Lebron’s children have gone through extensive counseling.  Ultimately, doctors and psychiatrists suggest medication, but Harville-Lebron doesn’t like that solution.

“Being there, being dedicated to twice a week taking him to therapy, the doctors, advocating for him, giving him a voice in his treatment is just not enough,” she says. “You know, there comes a point where you see that you've done all that you can do and as a parent not feeling guilty about being able say you know this issue is beyond my control and being able to relinquish that control over your child is hard.”

Something Harville-Lebron can control is providing support to her two sons, Eric and Enico, behind E2 Northeast Motorsports. A music client, from her entertainment company, W.M. Stone Enterprises Inc., invited her to a NASCAR EXPERIENCE at Charlotte Super Speedway in 2016. The event in Charlotte allows attendees to drive in a real NASCAR car to experience the sport in its purest form. She thought it would be a great idea to bring her sons, hoping to discourage them from speeding, but it had the opposite effect.  Eric and Enico clocked track speeds of 150 and 149 miles per hour respectively. They immediately caught the racing bug.  Harville-Lebron thought the bug would soon disappear, but her sons told her they wanted to pursue racing professionally. Without hesitation she knew she wanted to own a racing team and create a legacy for her family.

“You know, we sat down we had a family meeting and they were really fully engaged, they were fully committed, and I said, ‘OK so let's teach you about ownership. And the importance of generational wealth. My grandmother made it easier for me [to understand business and generational wealth] and I need to make it easier for you [so you can carry on this business].’ As grandmother always says, ‘Hard work pays off. God got you believing His word, stand on His faith and make it happen,’” preaches Harville-Lebron.

Harville-Lebron invested hours in research. Research on ownership, divisions, cars, mechanics, pit crews, etc. She had the NASCAR representative on speed dial for guidance. Knowledge is essential because when she entered meetings executives assumed she didn’t know much about the sport.

“Where is the owner?” they would ask.

“That’s me, we can begin now,” Harville-Lebron would reply.

People assumed she was a secretary or assistant and at times it was difficult to establish her authority because of apparent bias.

“It's a responsibility I'm ushering an entirely new demographic to NASCAR that's never been present here before so everything that happens pertaining to somebody of color will be my fault. That is my reality,” Harville-Lebron says.

E2 Northeast Motorsports has been running for three years. The team is still self-financed. Harville-Lebron hasn’t taken out any loans. It has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars thus far for equipment, registration fees, applications, overhead, etc.  Currently, she has six drivers signed under her name: her two sons; Stenzel; Dynasty Spurlock, who is a motorcycle driver: and two women who she said she could not disclose because they’re finalizing a contract. In addition to securing sponsorships, Harville-Lebron is working to build her driver roster.

At a much higher level for driving, Wallace has made strides when given an opportunity to fill in for Aric Almirola, an injured driver on Richard Perry’s Richard Perry Motorsports (RPM) team. Almirola is a Cuban-American driver, one of the first drivers to participate in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative. Wallace demonstrated potential while racing full-time for two seasons in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series national and regional divisions. He won six times in the Truck Series.  While filling in for Almirola in four races last year, his finished higher in each race. And he came in second place at the Daytona 500, making him the highest finishing African-American ever in the race.

Almirola announced he was leaving RPM at the end of the 2017 season. One of NASCAR’s legends, Richard Petty, handpicked Wallace to represent RPM next season, officially replacing Almirola. Wallace will race full-time in car number 43, Petty’s number.  “Not anyone can race in 43. We’re talking about the greatest of the greats.  This man is 82 years old, and is hilarious,” Wallace said about Petty, who is actually 81. “I had no idea he had so much spunk, which makes me admire him even more. The fact that he picked me to be on his team I’m completely honored.  He sees that I’m consistently racing and racing better each time.  He told me if we keep that consistency things will start working in our favor and we’ll win. He’s got a winner’s mindset for sure. He was born a winner. But it takes patience and consistency. I love it and I appreciate he has the faith in me.  The RPM team is funny as well, it’s just a perfect team.” The selection of Wallace to drive car number 43 is the equivalent of a sports great such as Michael Jordan handpicking someone to wear the “23” jersey.

Teams are starting to look for younger drivers.  Younger drivers have a younger fanbase, which attracts sponsors.  But drivers must have the right personality and appearance. Teams are afraid that if they sign an African-American, it may mess up sponsorships, because they are used to having white males represent their companies. It requires collaboration and leaders such as Petty to elevate the underrepresented.  Also, there are random circumstances that can change the trajectory of your life.

Chicken sandwich, medium waffle fries, medium Coke, Polynesian sauce and ketchup.  A Chick-Fil-A meal changed the life of Brehanna Daniels, a college senior who was planning to play basketball overseas or become an actress upon graduation. Daniels was in the student union hall at Norfolk State University in 2016 when the basketball team public address announcer approached her to suggest that she apply to the NASCAR pit crew program. Daniels did not know anything about NASCAR or pit crews. Nor did she have much experience driving.  But she did know how to drive down the lane and score a contested layup on the basketball court, and how to dominate as a point guard and shooting guard on the women’s basketball team.  Daniels has had a basketball in the palm of her hand since she was 5 years old. She and her twin brother played and talked about basketball constantly growing up in Virginia Beach.  She helped Louisburg College in North Carolina win its first conference title before transferring to Norfolk State University as a junior. She had gone through all types of conditioning through her lifetime playing basketball – or so she thought. The announcer showed Daniels a video of a pit-crew stop where members changed tires and fueled gas in seven seconds flat.  She was at loss for words.

The pit crew program targets former college athletes for a reason. Recruiters go to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and host tryouts. Those in whom they sense potential are invited to train for the combine, a four-hour skills competition that tests athletes’ fitness and agility through crew member drills and live pit-stop simulations.  The announcer asked all the female athletes at the college to attend tryouts.  Daniels was the only one who showed up.

“There’s something very special about Daniels,” says Phil Horton, the head athletic performance trainer of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity pit crew program. “Most importantly she was coachable. She understood what it took to unlearn the natural movements she developed through basketball and rework the muscle memory for NASCAR. I knew within seconds of tryouts that she could make it to combine, and really outdo a lot of the guys at combine.”

As Daniels was preparing for the combine she received a stipend from the program. At the combine, in Charlotte, she placed in the top 10 out of 20, automatically giving her a spot to train for the professional series through the program. Spiegel and Horton say the program has a 100 percent placement into the professional series.

Daniels moved to Charlotte from Virginia, had two-a-day practices, six hours a day, five days a week for six months straight with Coach Horton and his pit crew trainers.

“My hands we’re so bruised and roughed up,” Daniels says.  “I had to lift 75-pound tires, learn how to use an impact wrench, drill on and off lug nuts within seconds. I thought the conditioning would make sense since I’m a basketball player, but this is different type of coordination.  I had no idea what I was getting into at first. Some nights I would have to ice my hands after practice, they were so sore.”

Daniels was paid during the training, enough to live in Charlotte, but did not disclose the amount.

“I’ve worked as trainer in the NFL and NBA and there’s something very special about the physical and mental components of NASCAR that I’m trying to help expose to the black community,” Horton says. “Once you learn the basic eight fundamentals of how to do a pit stop, it’s a mental thing. It’s how you are able to do that under pressure; that’s the most important thing. They’re going to be fast, but we’re going to do have to slow them down, we’re going to have to get them under control. They’re going to have to learn those fundamentals to see if they can do that when it counts the most.”

At 23 years old, Daniels had the opportunity to showcase her skills acquired from training when she changed tires at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville for an ARCA race on April 8, 2017. ARCA is considered a minor-league type national series and is a feeder into NASCAR national series.  She became the first African-American to go over the wall – to jump over the ledge onto the track to change tires on a car during a pit stop -- in a national racing series.  She knew she had to change tires, but she did not know that she wouldn’t have a tire carrier, another pit crew member whose primary job is to carry and place tires. The mentality that Coach Horton instilled paid off because luckily, she practiced this type of scenario through the Drive for Diversity program.  She was on the wall and secured the tire in her left hand and had her eight-pound impact wrench ready in her right hand. Once the car pulled in the pit she jumped over, removed the lug nuts, changed the tire, drilled and tightened the lug nuts with no problem.

Daniels changed tires for a few other ARCA races. Then she finally had the chance to change tires at two NASCAR national series, Camping World Trucks and Xfinty, totaling about 25 races between 2017 and 2018.

“Coach always tells me it takes three or four years to change tires in a Cup series,” Daniels says. “That is just too long for me. I told myself, ‘I’m going to try to get there before that.’” She developed the bug.  The pit-crew bug.

Her determination and preparation did not fail her. She learned valuable lessons from performing in the NASCAR national series, including not jumping over the wall too soon. Within two years Daniels exceeded expectations and changed tires at the Monster Energy Cup series, Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach. She changed the front tires on Ray Black Jr.’s No. 51 Chevrolet Camaro with fellow Drive for Diversity graduate Breanna O’Leary, the first-ever all-female tire changing crew at a Cup series which is the highest-ranking national series.

“I feel like I have two targets on my back. One being an African-American female, and the other of just being a female,” Daniels said. “I have to work that much harder than everybody else.”

Daniels, Harville-Lebron, and Wallace have encountered racism and sexism as they make some noise in the sport.

“Someone in the bathroom thought I was an imposter and tried to call security on me because I was dressed in my fire suit.” Daniels says.  She still receives occasional glares from male pit crew members.

“People just stare at me. Like they really haven’t seen a black girl before. Sometimes I feel people breaking their necks in disbelief that I’m in the pit. I thought it was bad at ARCA, but it gets even worse in the Cup series,” she adds.

For Harville-Lebron, she recounts the measures she takes to ensure safety.

“You go outside of Talladega and the Klan flies their flag out in public,” Harville-Lebron says, referring to the raceway in Alabama. “It's definitely a cultural shock. So it requires me to have more in place than a regular team.  I have to have security. I have to have my vehicles escorted everywhere they go they cannot ever be left alone. The haulers, everything. Everything that is associated with E2 is going to be much more expensive just because I'm a black woman in this sport.  So it's a security issue for not only myself but people on the team or even my children at home.  My residence, my race shops, everything and my personal safety. You have fans that walk around because they have pit passes.  There is no metal detector there. Honestly that is the main reason why I don’t allow my sons to race professionally. I’m just not there yet mentally to have them deal with a target on their back regarding things they can’t control because the color of their skin.”

Wallace, Daniels and Harville-Lebron understand that they will encounter racism and sexism the higher they rise in NASCAR.  They have prepared mentally as best they can.

“There is only 1 driver from an African American background at the top level of our sport,” Wallace tweeted in November 2017. “I am the 1. You're not gonna stop hearing about "the black driver" for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey.”

A high school golf coach in Wisconsin sent a series of racist tweets in response to Wallace, and had to resign because of them.

“Will this fella just go away. Can’t drive himself out of an open wet paper bag. Sad to see the sport let this clown with zero ability,” read one of the now-deleted tweets.

Then he added: “Hey @BubbaWallace. Please quit with, ‘I’m black’ bs. You’re terrible. There are 1423 more credible drivers to get that ride than you.”

The social media bullies will forever put up a fight. For Harville-Lebron sometimes she has no option but to laugh it off.

“You gotta love the internet trolls. I mean some of it was hilarious. They’re like, ‘You are you going to fund your team with section eight, shake and bake, gangster down in the boom box.’ They say our race cars got guns hanging out the window, they’re going to drive-by, they could fuel their cars on watermelon. It was funny.”

When it comes to racism, Harville-Lebron says NASCAR has been nothing but helpful. She has not encountered anything malicious. Her contacts at NASCAR have supported her and are responsive to her questions, especially when she first started.

She notes that it's a different story with the vendors she gets her equipment from. “There’s price gouging, racism and so you know, there’s equipment that will never pass inspection,” she says. “It could be the slightest issue of the weight of the vehicle that they know you've spent your money and if you're not knowledgeable then you're left with equipment you cannot use.”

What does it take for African-Americans to thrive in the industry as a driver or team owner?  Sponsorships, latest mechanical parts, personality and youth.  Harville-Lebron says you can pay your way to the top. RPM is taking a chance on Wallace who, at 24, is very confident and charismatic. His personality, combined with his skills developed through Drive for Diversity, complements the goals and direction for Petty’s RPM.  As Wallace tweeted, fans need to embrace hearing about “the black driver” and sponsorships need to adjust to the change as well.

After being in the industry for three years and experiencing her own setbacks, Harville-Lebron does not regret this venture and would continue building E2 Northeast Motorsports in the event her sons lost interest.

“Yes, I love the sport and I know that this is bigger than me,” she says “This is much bigger than me.  I have people that come up to me and it moves me to tears when they tell me that I encourage them and they didn't think that their dream that's outside of the box or off the beaten path is possible because they have so many issues that hold them down. Then they hear about my story and ask, ‘How do I do it?’ and I say, ‘By the grace of God’. Of course, there are days when I'm like, ‘Oh my God, am I crazy? I could sit home and enjoy my pension check.’ But He put me on this path and I’m going to see it through and I'm going to take the lumps and bumps that come along with it.”

When a driver wears a helmet, gender and race is obscured. You just see a car with a bold number decal trying to make it first to the finish line, to earn a checkered flag. E2 Northeast Motorsports’ logo is black and white checkers with some text in blue. The same checkers from that logo are painted on the track to mark the finish line. It’s the same black and white checkered flag held by the official who waves it to drivers signaling the final lap of a race. Over 70 years in NASCAR, black and white symbolizes “the end,” but off the track it symbolizes a stronger mission for integration. The black and white checkered flag represents the continuous laps that Scott, Wallace, Daniels, Harville-Lebron, Horton, Spiegel and others have done and are continuing to do to integrate, establish more “firsts,” and shape the diversity of NASCAR.

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