Motorsports is very much a generational sport. When you ask most drivers or crew how they got involved in racing, chances are they’ll tell you that their dad or uncle raced. And as minorities and women have been historically excluded from racing, it makes it difficult to pass down the interest (and access and money) for the sport to the next generation.
The paddock today is actually a very welcoming place. However, because a lot of minorities don’t have enough role models in the sport, they don’t have anything to tether their interests to. Which makes it seem as if minorities only really have an interest in ball sports.
But think about it: Jackie Robinson broke into the majors in 1947, less than 20 years prior to the year Wendell Scott won his only NASCAR race. In the interim years between the two events, dozens of Black players were accepted into MLB, giving a whole generation of Black kids role models to aspire to emulate. Baseball players, not racecar drivers, were what Black kids of the day wanted to grow up to be. Fast forward to today and see the numbers of Black MLB players versus Black NASCAR drivers.
Cause and effect.
Now for the good news. Wallace won, and now young kids of all races have a great role model to look up to and be inspired by. Combine that with the big push by almost every motorsports series on the planet to increase minority participation, and you’ve got something. In fact, you’re onto something big now.
In F1, Hamilton is not only leading the push for diversity on a global scale but he’s putting his money where his mouth is by funding a push to hire Black teachers to teach STEM subjects. FIA has its Women in Motorsports foundation that is helping to place women in key positions in motorsports as drivers, engineers, and team owners. On the home front, I have spent this season working directly with Greg Gill, CEO of the SRO World Challenge Championship, on a diversity program to help minority engineers, mechanics, and crew get opportunities in the SRO paddock (more news on the 2022 program coming soon.) And finally, IMSA just announced the 10 finalists for its diversity driver program, with an incredibly talented field of drivers—most of whom you likely haven’t heard of. You will very soon. Motorsports are legitimately better when everyone can get involved.
And this. This is the reason why Wallace’s win matters. He is, and will continue to be, a role model for a generation of kids that never knew that they to could be a part of the motorsports paddock. So realize that while Wallace’s race might not be a big deal to you, it is a big deal to millions of kids around the world—one of whom may be the next Bubba Wallace or Lewis Hamilton themselves.
Robb Holland is an American race car driver and automotive journalist. He has competed in the British Touring Car Championship, Pikes Peak, the World Touring Car Championships and more.
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