NASCAR Skids Into $500 Million Racial Bias Suit

     MANHATTAN (CN) — One year after a black driver won a NASCAR-sanctioned event for the first time, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the league has still not seen another black champion in its highest-level races more than 50 years later.
     On Friday, a federal lawsuit charged that racial progress has zipped by NASCAR, and motorsports racing remains the “most racially segregated sport in the United States.”
     Terrance Alton Cox III, the founder of the North Carolina-based company Diversity Motorsports, says that he has been trying to make U.S. racing look more like the rest of the land since 2009.
     In a $500 million lawsuit, Cox alleges disturbing statistics about the league.
     None of NASCAR’s senior management is black, and no black driver has ever participated in the Daytona 500, according to his 23-page complaint.
     The late Wendell Scott glided past racial bigotry to become both the first black NASCAR driver, and the first to win a race in the Grand National Series, the league’s highest level, in 1963.
     In its coverage of Scott’s induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year, the Guardian reported that the racing legend wasn’t allowed to have a trophy. A kiss from the beauty queen, who was white, was also out of the question for the scandal-averse league.
     Cox’s complaint alleges that no black driver has won a NASCAR-sanctioned event in more than 50 years, although the Associated Press reported in 2013 that black driver Darrell Wallace Jr. won a Truck Series race that October.
     Cox notes that only two other black drivers have even competed in a top-tier NASCAR race: Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Lester, whose last races were in 2006.
     Even NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, the equivalent of its minor leagues, has only one black driver of the 48 listed on its roster this year, according to the complaint.
     Six years ago, Cox says, he met with more than a dozen companies signed onto NASCAR’s charter agreement to integrate U.S. motorsports with an alternative to the league’s “Drive for Diversity” program.
     Cox says that his plan — the “One Race, One World” initiative — earned collaboration with Pit Indoor Kart Racing, the largest indoor Go-Kart racing facility in the country, and other marquee names before launching at Oprah Winfrey’s Boys & Girls Club in Jackson, Miss., in May 2009.
     NASCAR still refused Cox’s help and insisted that the “Drive for Diversity” program had been doing its job even though it only recruited one black Xfinity Series driver — and none at all for its Sprint Series, according to Cox.
     “In addition, NASCAR has intentionally interfered with the efforts of Cox and Diversity Motorsports to integrate the US motorsports industry by perpetuating, condoning, and actively participating in actions designed to humiliate, degrade, ostracize and exclude Cox,” the complaint states.
     Short for the National Association for Stock Car Racing, NASCAR was founded by Bill France, Sr., and is still under the control of his descendants. The lawsuit depicts the France family as a good-old-boys network spearheading the discrimination, but it does not name any of the family members as defendants.
     In a statement, NASCAR slammed the lawsuit as a “publicity seeking legal action.”
     “NASCAR embraces all individuals interested and involved in our sport, whether as partners, fans, competitors or employees, and there is no merit to this lawsuit,” the league said, trumpeting its various diversity initiatives.
     Vowing to “defend our organization against these meritless allegations,” NASCAR said the league “will be asserting our own claims against Mr. Cox for his defamatory actions.”
     One crack already has surfaced in one of Cox’s allegations, only a day after its filing.
     Cox claimed that comedian Steve Harvey approached him and his company to set up a racing team in September 2015, but that NASCAR sidelined the “Steve Harvey Races 4 Education” initiative when it told the comedian the league would not sanction a race tied to Diversity Motorsports.
     But Harvey denied that this meeting took place, saying, “I don’t even like fast-ass cars,” according to the gossip site TMZ.
     In a phone interview, Cox’s attorney Ronald Paltrowitz had no reaction to the comedian’s denial, but he downplayed NASCAR’s threat of litigation.
     “I don’t believe that they can base a defamation suit on the information in the complaint,” he said.

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