For years NASCAR has attempted to branch out and reach a larger fan base. For many non-followers of the sport, NASCAR fans are thought to be beer drinking rednecks with confederate flags on their pickup trucks.
On Sunday NASCAR had numerous celebrities on hand including actor James Franco, NFL player Ray Lewis and musician 50 Cent.
Franco seemed to take a shot at driver Danica Patrick when he delivered the command to fire engines.
“Drivers! — and— Danica! start your engines.”
Within a sport which has attempted to make inroads towards driver diversity it may have well been a big middle finger. It was not the only one delivered on Sunday.
“Damn, I don’t see no black people lol,” 50 Cent tweeted Sunday after arriving at Daytona International Speedway. That tweet has since been deleted.
You do not have to be in the NASCAR offices to feel that gut punch.
In fairness to NASCAR they have made efforts to diversify their fan base, even if the goal is simply a larger return at the gates. In 2004 the Driver for Diversity program was created in an effort to attract more women and minorities to the sport. The progress from that program is just beginning to be shown.
A female driver now competes in each of the sports top series. An African American and Japanese American both compete full-time in the truck series as well.