The Fast Track to Black Fans?

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NASCARMost people think of NASCAR as a ?white? sport?meaning the fans and race car drivers are mostly white. But that perception is changing DNA. NASCAR has upped its efforts to diversify its audience. For the last few years NASCAR has been trying to lure more African-American fans through various diversity initiatives with its Drive for Diversity program. The latest is a partnership with Black Entertainment Television (BET). The new BET show ?Changing Lanes,? which premiered earlier this month, places 10 contestants in a house together for a month to compete for a spot as a NASCAR driver.???

According to NACSAR spokesperson Scott Warfield, ?It is important for NASCAR to reach out to the African-American community because that is one of the sport’s fastest growing fan bases. In 2005, African-Americans made up 7.6% of NASCAR’s fan base. Today, that number is 8.6%, a +12% increase in just 5 years. In addition, it has long been our desire to make the sport look and feel like America. So in 2004, we created the Drive for Diversity program to help minorities and females pursue careers in NASCAR. This program has been very successful and Drive for Diversity remains one of the sport’s top priorities in 2010 and beyond.???

?Because of this jump in numbers, NASCAR turned to BET to interact directly with black viewers.??NASCAR, in partnership with the 909 Group, approached BET with the idea for Changing Lanes because BET’s audience allowed us to speak directly to the African- American community in a very relevant way,? says Warfiled. ?The Drive for Diversity program is one that allows minorities and females the opportunity to pursue driving careers in NASCAR and the journey these young people go through makes for wonderful TV. BET has done a great job promoting this show and the early feedback from viewers has been very positive.??

For BET, the partnership is a perfect match, says a spokesperson. ?BET Networks is one of the leading consumer brands in the world for African-Americans. NASCAR has a large and growing African-American fan base, with nearly 10 percent of its fans being black. As a credible, authoritative voice for African-Americans, BET hopes Changing Lanes will encourage more talented youth to get involved in the sport.??

But will a BET reality show draw more blacks to NASCAR events? Obviously, NASCAR and BET are betting on it. ?The diversity goal for NASCAR is very simple: we want to give as many minorities and females an opportunity to pursue a professional career in motorsports whether that be behind the wheel, over the wall, in the media center or in the front office,? says Warfield. ?In addition, we want to continue to expose the sport to as many new audiences as possible.?

?Says the BET spokesperson, ?BET?s Changing Lanes will bring attention to NASCAR?s exciting initiative, Drive for Diversity, that is creating opportunities for young minority men and women who are determined to make a career in NASCAR racing. Hopefully, some of the viewers will be inspired to become the next generation of NASCAR drivers and crew members.?