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Southern California once again played host to the Auto Club 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The races have clearly felt the financial crunch of our time due to the scattered empty seats in the normally sold out raceway. This year's race once again competed with the Academy Awards but this year the races had a few stars of their own.
Auto Club Speedway brought out Reggie Jackson to drive the pace car for the race. They also wanted to use his nickname 'Mr. October' to promote the second Sprint Cup date. The second race at the Auto Club Speedway this year will be moved from Memorial Day to October right in the middle of the Sprint Cup Chase. He was not the only former athlete in the pits. Randy Moss of the New England Patriots and former NBA star Brad Daugherty both are now owners in NASCAR.
Daugherty, 42, bought into JTG racing to form JTG/Daugherty Racing that currently fields two Nationwide Series cars, and a Sprint Cup Series ride in 2009 with driver Marcus Amrose. Ambrose will drive the No. 47 in the Cup Series, and Little Debbie snack cakes will sponsor the car. Daugherty in a recent statement said "I'm proud that I'm one of the first African-American owners at this level. I co-founded NASCAR's Diversity council about 15 years ago, and a lot of people have spent a lot of time to make this sport more inclusive. I hope this will open some doors for more minorities to become involved in this great sport. Daugherty has had one win as an owner in the then-Busch Series, with Robert Pressley driving in 1989.
Daughtery's counterpart in NASCAR's drive for diversity is NFL wideout Randy Moss. Moss who has always had a love for racing entered NASCAR in the middle of last year just to get his feet wet in the NASCAR Craftsman truck series. Moss has joined up with David Dollar to form Randy Moss Motorsports. David Dollar is a long-standing owner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series operating under the Morgan Dollar Motorsports banner dating back to 1998, David Dollar-led teams captured 13 victories in the series and finished second in the championship chase three years running.
This year the team has added Mike Skinner a seasoned vet in the truck series to bolster their driver line up and teach their rookie Tayler Malsam.
Moss has quickly taken to NASCAR recently upgrading his team from Ford trucks to Toyota. Moss recently stated "we are extremely excited to be joining the Toyota team this season, Toyota has proven year in and year out that they are competitive on the track and can provide the resources to run for a championship. We are pleased to be a part of their camp."
Randy Moss Motorsports did not fair well last weekend failing to finish in the top ten in the truck race. However, with a constant rotation of top drivers including Scott Speed, Jimmie Johnson, and Marc Davis the only Black driver in the field RMM is looking for a good showing in 2009. Davis has yet to climb into the tuck this year but plans to take the green flag several times this year in the #81 truck.
Diversity in NASCAR has been slow. Currently there is only one driver in the field who is not white and only three who are not American.
The process has been given quite a boost in 2009 with the efforts of Brad Daugherty, Randy Moss and Sam Belnavis who recently was given a share of ownership with Roush Fenway Racing.
However, with these tough economical times teams are contracting and there are few opportunities for expansion and diversity.
However, all three of these men have a vested effort in NASCAR and will soon be at the top of the Racing industry. The victory by Matt Kenseth in this year Daytona 500 and Auto Club 500 gave Sam Belnavis his first two wins as an owner and the first Daytona 500 win by a Black owner.