Co-owners of Strong Racing, Derek Strong and Erica Abdullah Hill
Strong Racing is the first Black owned Stock Car Racing team with their eye on the future of racing sports.
By Brian W. Carter
Sentinel Staff Writer
Strong Racing (SR) is a racially diverse Motorsports Racing team co-owned by former NBA player, Derek Strong and business entrepreneur, Erica Abdullah Hill. From dribblin’ a basketball, to racin’ on the tarmac, Strong is the first to successfully make the transition from the NBA to stock car racing.
The ex-NBA star, who played for teams like the Lakers, Clippers and Orlando Magic, always had racing in his heart from the very beginning. He even used to build his own go-karts as a kid. “I started driving go-karts when I was about seven yearsÂ old,” said Strong.
While attending Xavier University, he was drafted into the NBA. After 12 years of playing professional B-Ball, Strong retired and began to pursue his first love, racing cars. He started SR, his own stock car racing team in 2001.
The professional racing circuit has seen a few Black faces burn rubber on the track. Marc Davis, a 19 year-old stock car phenom from Silver Spring, Maryland, is one of those faces. Another notable racer is Lewis Hamilton, a British Formula One racing driver, who is the youngest and first Black Formula One World Champion. Max Siegel, who is over the Driver Diversity Program, is a Black co-owner of the racing team, Revolution Racing. SR intends to open the door in an effort to diversify the racing community.
Hill is a progressive thinker with experience in business and management. On top of being the first Black woman to own a NASCAR team, she is also the Program Director for the Los Angeles Motorsports Institute, co-founder of Peace International, a non-profit organization who primarily builds schools in remote areas throughout the world and co-founder of Vision 2000, a non-profit that assists minority owned small businesses.
She saw SR as a chance to make a difference within the community and bring diversity to professional racing. “I realized that there was a lack of African-American presence or just diversity period in NASCAR,” said Hill.
She continued, “They [NASCAR] were being strong-armed into diversity. We understand that there is no real liaison or entry way into NASCAR outside of this driver diversity program which, in our opinion, seems to not really be open.”
SR hopes to create a national multicultural audience through motorsports and open doors to future drivers and stock car teams of diversity. Hill describes SR as “a diverse group of people that are all extremely well at their craft.” She continued, “We all come from different backgrounds but we’re all just as skilled and just as capable as all these other teams.” SR is all about diversity, from their multi-ethnic drivers, pit crew and engineers, to an all-Black public relations and design team, they’re doing something different in the racing community.
Strong and Hill have also taken up a grass-roots effort in working with the community through SR. “We’ve done a lot of outreach to our community here in L.A…some in Florida,” said Strong. “We support a lot of benefits like charities, banquets…we like to try and give back.”
“You don’t see NASCAR going into the community making a presence,” saidÂ Hill, “so that people and children know that this even exists and that it’s open for them.”
“We are a huge part of an organization called the Motorsports Institute,” said Hill. “We go into the inner-city schools…and we’ll do career day, we talk to the kids about racing.” Strong and Hill hope to inspire diverse youth into pursuing future careers in professional racing.
SR is in the process of looking for sponsors who are willing to get behind their enterprise. “We’re definitely looking for sponsors,” said Hill. Strong and Hill are ready to give exposure to companies that are interested in SR and their goals.
“We are trying to make history, we’re trying to accomplish something that has actually never been done,” said Strong. “I’d like the public to know, we definitely would like to keep their support.”
“We want to give you more than you expect of us,” said Hill, “we want the children in the community to be able to get to the race track and even know that it’s an option for them.”
SR has all the makings of a championship racing team with Strong and Hill at the helm of an adept team of professionals. They are beginning to open the doors of opportunity into a world that has been closed off to some. It won’t be long until SR is a household name and a beacon of community pride on the track.