Jusan Hamilton becomes the first director of the Daytona 500 Black race

Daytona Beach, Florida (AP) – Juice Hamilton fell in love with fast cars, dreaming as a child of a NASCAR career …

Daytona Beach, Florida (AP) – Juice Hamilton fell in love with fast cars, having a childhood career at NASCAR while driving on dirt tracks in New York City. He fought for victory, kept up with the best riders, jumping from series to series, and trusted his talent enough to know he could succeed as a professional driver.

What Hamilton didn’t see when his family walked the tracks were other children who were like him. And although the lack of minorities did not deter him from racing, it made other friends and family wonder what he does with his time every weekend.

“Why is an African-American child from upstate New York interested in motorsports?” Hamilton said he was often asked.

The answer was simple, based not on breaking down barriers and paving paths, but rather simply pursuing his passion.

“For me, it was something I like,” Hamilton said. “This is what I love to do. I have a great connection with me and my family, so that every weekend I go to the race track and spend time together. “

The 31-year-old Hamilton did it in racing, but not in a driving career that came to a halt – largely due to the financial strain of his family – but behind the scenes for more than a decade at NASCAR. He worked in event production, on social media, directed the Drive for Diversity program (which denied him as a teenager) and was eventually appointed director of racing in three national NASCAR series.

On deck, its milestone: Hamilton is set to become the first black race director in the history of the Daytona 500 and only the third since 1988. He will watch from the booth overlooking the sprawling track and give throws of everything from warnings to penalties and a cleaning crew that understands the complexity of the race in the official debut of the next-generation NASCAR car.

“It’s not necessarily about being the first black person to call the Daytona 500,” Hamilton said. “In terms of career, it’s a huge achievement for me with what I enjoyed about motorsport. A bigger picture, I hope, is a positive example for others that, regardless of race and background, if you work hard and have the mood to achieve your goal, it can be achieved. ”

NASCAR’s diversity initiatives have succeeded over the past decade as a series of cars try to break down traditional stereotypes and reflect all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds.

“I’ve always felt hospitable,” Hamilton said. “I did not think that such a perception is the reality of working here. I think the last two years have been the right time for the company to make its internal position, which I have always felt known to the public. I think we have made huge strides in our public perception. ”

Buba Wallace, who last season became the first black racer to win the Cup Series race since 1963, has become the face of NASCAR’s diversity diversity. Wallace, who won behind the wheel of a team co-owned by NBA Hall of Fame member Michael Jordan, found his voice as a catalyst for change and led the successful NASCAR 2020 ban on the Confederate flag.

He is not alone as a man of color paving a new path in NASCAR. Look around the garage in Dayton, and a multicultural audience is represented in a wide range of jobs.

Jesse Iwuji, lieutenant commander of the Navy Reserve, will be the second black full-time driver this season with plans to participate in the second-tier Xfinity series. Ivudi co-owns his team with Professional Football Hall of Fame member Emmett Smith, who joined NASCAR a year after Jordan and artist Pitbull joined the ranks. Pitbull is a co-owner of a team that has Mexican pilot Daniel Suarez.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has a car that will try to qualify for the Daytona 500, as does NY Racing, a team owned by black entrepreneur John Cohen.

“Jesse, he was grinding so hard that it worked for him, and it was a dream for him that what he wanted to do when he left the military was really cool,” Wallace said. “He just has the right people to help him succeed. As for industry leaders like Jussan, it’s very cool that he’s the voice we hear here from the race director. ”

Noah Gregson made his way to the Daytona 500 thanks to team owner Linda Byrd and Beard Motorsports. This week, Busch Light announced it was “taking the opportunity to make historic progress toward gender inclusion” and allocated $ 10 million to sponsor each 21-year-old female driver at NASCAR over the next three years. Familiar names who are expected to benefit from the “Speed ​​It Up” program include Xfinity series driver Natalie Decker and truck series veteran Jennifer Joe Cobb.

Cohen has a career as an owner, which included five drivers and 17 starting from 2012 to 2018. He hired Greg Bifle to his NY Racing team to participate in Dayton as an open machine and provided sponsorship from Grambling State University. The 46-year-old Cohen has recognized NASCAR President Steve Phelps for his role in changing racial relations in the industry.

“I have stories, you know what I mean,” Cohen said. “For me, it’s different than Michael Jordan. This is a trap. People don’t know who I am. Even if you know he is the owner of NASCAR, you will still respect him because he is Jordan. I’m talking about security, I’m talking about the fans, I’m talking about everyone. I just feel different than he does. ”

Just maybe not too far down the road, the times of the good boy of southern relations are really extinct.

“People don’t think it’s for you,” Hamilton said. “I hope that because of what I’m doing, the next age group that will show up and have an interest, like me, won’t get those side views and those questions of why. It’s more of what shows, yes, it’s achievable. Someone set an example, and the path is there. If you want to do that, be sure to go for it and you will get that kind of support. ”

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