|NASCAR diversity perception, reality meet|
|Former DEI chief races to widen demographic|
|Published Wednesday, June 16, 2010 5:54 pm|
|Max Siegel, a former executive at Dale Earnhardt Inc., leads NASCAR’s efforts to bring more people of color and women into the stock car racing league.|
Motorsport’s racial discrimination in the stands and on the track is well documented. However, with Max Siegel at the helm of Drive for Diversity, NASCAR’s competition diversity program, that perception may be changing.
Siegel is the former president of global operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he made history as the highest-ranking African-American executive in NASCAR.
Siegel, an accomplished African-American lawyer and sports and entertainment mogul, touts that NASCAR is an open and welcoming sport. He continues to carry on the vision of diversity in NASCAR that his friend and partner, NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White had before he died in December of 2004.
“It’s meant a lot. I thought about it quite a bit before I took the opportunity (in Charlotte) asking Sara (White) who is a good friend of mine, who was Reggie’s wife,” said Siegel. “I felt like this has been a great opportunity to extend his legacy and really try to accomplish some of the things that the two of us talked about and had a strong passion for.”
“Even in my career as a young lawyer, representing him, (it was important) giving opportunities to people of color who really haven’t had access before. There is literally not a day that goes by when I’m not thinking about what it would be like with him involved and really trying to make sure that we’re doing some of the things that he was so passionate about, when he was pursuing NASCAR while he was alive.”
Siegel and his partners exemplify that passion by using new and conventional marketing tactics to introduce and educate the African-American community about the sport.
“We have a big youth initiative. We will bring over 100 kids in for a week to our facility in Charlotte. We have a technology center and they’ll be there for a week of summer camp. We’ll introduce them to simulated racing, the franchise and the profession,” said Siegel.
Revolution Racing, a race team that Siegel owns and operates with former vice-president of DEI, John Story, was created to develop female and minority drivers and crew in an academy style. Revolution Racing’s drivers and crew members participate in NASCAR’s Drive For Diversity.
Earlier this year, Revolution Racing announced a new docu-reality series called “Changing Lanes” that will air on September 1 on BET that will show RR’s drivers and pit crew members compete in NASCAR’s developmental race series.
“When I was on the global management team at Sony BMG and we had all of the American Idol contestants, where we made the records. What fascinated me was how, if you involve the general public in creating a star and getting them emotionally attached and by the time you put them on a media platform, it would have built brands and create a fan base. So when they release their first record, most of the records would be hugely successful because you have a built in fan base and the fans fill a part of it,” said Siegel.
“I noticed, with young drivers that did not have media exposure, especially drivers of color, they needed an opportunity to tell their stories in a compelling way. Get them a media platform where they’re exposed to the public and give a reason for a sponsor to invest in them. So I wanted to give an ‘American Idol’ meets ‘The Apprentice’ where I went out and try to find the next female or driver of color,” explained Siegel.
After he pitched the show to executives, BET picked the show up and partnered with a NASCAR media group as well as Ken Mok, who created the reality show, “America’s Next Top Model.”
He wants viewers to learn what it takes to be involved in the sport, show the sacrifices and character of the young drivers who made an enormous investment in the sport and to celebrate the accomplishments of people of color, who are currently in the sport.
The Indianapolis native has partnered with other prominent African-Americans to push for diversity in motorsports. Actor and rap artist Ludacris is one of Siegel’s partners and is doing voiceovers on the show. Media personalities Tom Joyner and Tavis Smiley are also supporters of his endeavors.
“What we’re trying to do, even with respect to the sport, not just as an awareness standpoint, but create opportunities for people of color and women throughout the sport and business opportunities,” Siegel said. “So I am going to look for strategic partners that both help us with awareness, but also tie into some of the corporate relationships that are so important to financing operation like this.”
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