The Pepsi 400 was run at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana this past Sunday.
Photo by Jeff Lewis
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By Christian Lewis
Sentinel Sports Writer
NASCAR returned to the Auto Club Speedway on Sunday to run the Pepsi 400. This year’s race was pushed back to October as opposed to the regular Memorial Day weekend race date in order for California to have a race in the Sprint cup Chase; NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
The economy played a huge roll in the attendance of the race with seats still available in every section, even during the Chase, which normally sells out at most tracks.
To be fair both the Clippers and Lakers will kick off their season soon and people are probably saving their cash for the Lakers/Clippers shoot out next weekend. Lets face it, there are a lot of sporting options in Southern California then there is in Bristol, Connecticut. NASCAR can only hope that the casual fan finds their way to the track due to reduce pricing that all NASCAR tracks have adopted due to the economy.
This year race held a few surprises as opposed to years passed. First it was not 130 degrees on the track and many more black people made it out for the race. It seems that NASCAR 's drive for diversity initiative has paid off somewhat as black families can now be seen walking around the pit lane asking for autographs and clamoring for drivers photos.
NASCAR has for years tried to blend in more diversified fans in order to take on the NFL, their Sunday rivals, and truly be a stronger representation of America. Right now in NASCAR there are over 50 drivers of which only 43 race each weekend, of those only one, Juan Pablo Montoya, is the only non-white driver. NASCAR is by far the most under represented Sport in regards to diversity in the world. Golf, tennis and even NASCAR’s counterpart Indy racing can boast a much more diversified core and international fan base.
NASCAR has for years been a sport that has been dominated by Caucasians and the South. However, due to commercial interests their goal has been to expand its borders and fan base globally with out leaving its roots. NASCAR has hosted races in Canada and Mexico in its nationwide series in order to push its borders. However, even with their introduction of Canadian drivers Patrick Carpentier and Italian drivers Max Papis, NASCAR’s fan base has remained relatively unchanged.
The black community especially has been slow to adopt the NASCAR’s lifestyle, as they have no incumbent representative. Marc Davis, who is on the rise with Joe Gibbs racing, is still a few years away from running in the Sprint Cup. He is the only black driver currently running in any series. Max Siegel, who ran DEI, had invited James “Bubba” Stewart from the AMA motorcross to race, but Stewart, who is black, is dominant in his series and has made no plans to switch.
The newest break through for the black community in racing is Randy Moss Motorsports. Yes, that Randy Moss, who is currently catching passes from Brett Favre in Minnesota, has fielded a NASCAR truck team and the #81 truck is fairly competitive week to week. Yet, without a black driver it will be a long time before the black community and the racing community can become one.Representing the only diversity from week to week in NASCAR is Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya struggled Sunday as he had major issues with is car and failed to keep pace with the field. He qualified in the top 5 with teammate Jamie McMurray and was expected to dominate much like last year’s race. However, the car’s set up was not to his liking and the long green flag runs caused him to lose too much ground to the leaders.
NASCAR has yet again failed to pack the stands and has hit a plateau in terms of diversity. However, NASCAR has teamed up with BET and produced a new reality TV show called “Changing Lanes”. It will feature young drivers of diverse backgrounds, men and women; all competing to win a ride in the NASCAR ranks. Tune into BET to see who makes the cut.