There’s always been a long-standing debate in auto racing about a stunning lack of diversity. To most, it’s a all-male, all-white sport, especially in NASCAR, where even the occasional foreign driver like Juan Pablo Montoya is seen as a rarity.
What’s ironic, though, is that a bright, shining spotlight has been shown on one driver looking to change that, while another is slowly but surely breaking down walls without the fanfare.
Of course, the arrival of Danica Patrick has, on the surface appears to be more about hype than anything else. The mediocre results during her year in the Nationwide Series and her lackluster performance in Sprint Cup have been quite apparent.
Although her driving struggles are essentially on par with the plethora of open-wheel drivers who’ve tried and failed to make the jump, that hasn’t stopped her from drawing superstar-level attention.
Then there’s the story of Darrell Wallace, Jr, who caught the eye of both race owner Joe Gibbs and his driver, Kyle Busch. Wallace’s arrival as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which has also produced a star in Japanese-American Kyle Larson, has already produced dividends.
Without a doubt, the most significant accomplishment came in Martinsville, where Wallace became the first African-American since the legendary Wendell Scott to win a NASCAR race when he took the checkered in the Camping World Truck Series.
For decades, NASCAR has tried to shake off much of the racism that has been associated with its Southern roots, though not necessarily with the association itself. With his talent, Wallace is poised to make a great leap forward that would be the equivalent to Tiger Woods’ debut with the PGA.
Still, it seems that Wallace’s story is somewhat muted. Meanwhile, not a race goes by that we’re not inundated with an obligatory Patrick update.
It’s clear where we should be directing out attention to, isn’t it?