NASCAR might be on board the Bubba train in a big way.
Richard Petty Motorsports announced two weeks ago the hiring of Bubba Wallace to take Aric Amirola’s ride. Wallace will be the first African-American to be a fulltime driver in Cup Series racing in over a decade. Adam Stern with the SportsBusiness Journal tweeted that NASCAR is reaching out to some of their big-money sponsors, asking to feature Wallace in a few of their marketing plans and possibly help sponsor his ride for 2018.
It makes sense. NASCAR is losing money, losing ratings, and losing fans. They’ve known for a long time they have an image problem when it comes to the African-American community. That happens when 95% of your athletes are white and the last African-American in a driver’s seat was Bill Lester back in 2006.
“Bubba’s talent, personality, and unique story resonates with our fans, but it also helps spark new interest in the sport,” NASCAR chief marketing officer Jill Gregory told espn.com back in June. “He’s earned this opportunity in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and we believe his development and success will encourage other young, diverse drivers to pursue careers in NASCAR.”
That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of people of color working in NASCAR, they’re just not the frontline talent. Building a campaign around Wallace helps the sport tremendously with the diversity perception. And that, in turn, could help them battle their attendance and ratings woes.