NASCAR meets with minister pushing for racial equality

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FILE - In this Wednesday, June 3, 2020 file photo, The Reverend Greg Drumwright, right, greets people at the memorial site for Greg Floyd in Minneapolis. Greg Drumwright, a minister at the Citadel Church & Campus Ministries, helped organize a group of Black fans to attend the NASCAR race at Talladega and support driver Bubba Wallace. Drumwright now hopes he can become an advocate of change for NASCAR.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

As the Rev. Greg Drumwright watched members of his ministry crowd the fence at Talladega Superspeedway to cheer for Black driver Bubba Wallace, he realized his first NASCAR race was the start of his immersion into stock car racing.

Less than three weeks later, Drumwright has a seat at NASCAR’s leadership table and he said he is ready to disrupt the industry’s social hierarchy and get more Blacks involved, from the board room to the grandstands to the track.

“We want to see that the call for diversification and true equity in the sport extends beyond the banning of the Confederate flag,” Drumwright said. “It extends into partnering with the minority community, specifically the millennial minority community. These are the organizers, these are the demonstrators, these are the collegiates that could be majoring and accepting internships. We know that those opportunities exist. But they don’t exist in large numbers. We want to see that NASCAR is true to the message that they’re saying, that this is a new day in NASCAR and they understand what it means to the African-American community.”

NASCAR seems willing to listen.

Drumwright, a senior minister at the Citadel of Praise Church and Campus Ministries in Greensboro, North Carolina, met with two NASCAR officials for what he hoped was a serious discussion about the industry's push for racial diversity. He said he was denied a chance to talk with NASCAR President Steve Phelps about the issues that mattered most to his group.

“We are concerned about the commitment that’s been stated to furthering this dialogue and this call from the social justice community for change," Drumwright said after the meeting.

In a statement, NASCAR said "we had a good conversation with Rev. Drumwright this afternoon. We share the same goal, and that is advancing diversity in our sport in an impactful way.”

NASCAR has been swept up in the reckoning over the nation's racist past. Wallace — the lone Black driver in the Cup Series — helped prod NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag just a few weeks ago. The 26-year-old Wallace emerged as social activist but two weeks later a member of his race team found a garage door pulldown rope fashioned as a noose in their garage at Talladega.