NASCAR plans to hire and train more minorities

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR is revving up its efforts to
bolster diversity in stock car racing with a new plan to train and
hire more minorities to drive, work the pits and handle its

The plan announced Wednesday in Washington, D.C., with the help
of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., includes working with
historically black universities to teach NASCAR's technical
curriculum by linking them to the Universal Technical Institute, a
multi-campus program used by the racing body.

NASCAR already works with at least two historically black
colleges in North Carolina, said Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., chairman of
the Congressional Black Caucus. The efforts at North Carolina A&T
State University and Winston-Salem State University will "open
some exciting doors'' to students in technical fields," he said.

"When you see an industry ... start to grow," Watt said of
NASCAR, "you want it to have the kind of diversity that reflects
our nation."

The first and only black driver to win a major NASCAR race was
Wendell Scott of Virginia in 1963.

"We consider him the Jackie Robinson of our sport," said
NASCAR spokesman Josh Hamilton, adding that a scholarship has been
started in his name.

Today, Bill Lester of Oakland, Calif., is the lone black NASCAR
driver in its three top series. Lester drives a Toyota in the
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Among NASCAR's roughly 40 teams, there is one black and two
Hispanic team owners.

NASCAR in recent years has sought paid advice from ex-NBA star
Magic Johnson and former Rep. J.C. Watts, a former Oklahoma
quarterback who hosted Wednesday's news conference.

Watts lauded NASCAR's most recent diversity effort, but added,
"I think [racing officials] would admit that they were not as
aggressive as they should have been in extending the hand of

NASCAR President Mike Helton acknowledged that selling the sport
to minority fans continues to be difficult, but that they are
committed to doing just that.