'The Walls Are Coming Down...Finally'
Late Spring 1997

Legendary basketball player Julius Erving and former Pro Bowl running back Joe Washington and two North Carolina executives have joined to form the Washington-Erving Group, which will form a NASCAR team for 1998. Their goal is to have an established driver in the car for the 1998 season and groom minority drivers for a possible multicar team in the future.

The story was reported in USA Today and on ESPN in late April. However, NASCAR Online did not see fit to mention it on their official web site. NASCAR has long been a white southern attraction. However, with the recent growth of NASCAR in popularity and the building of race tracks near Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, California, there is an opportunity to expose the sport to various minority groups in major cities.

Erving and Washington's plans should be applauded and I sincerely hope that their race team comes to fruition. Without a doubt, there will be some resentment to their actions and claims that they are merely looking for a minority driver instead of a better qualified white southern Protestant. Well, this isn't about black and white. It's about presenting an opportunity and opening a door that has been shut in the past. It's not like basketball where there would be a spot reserved for a particular group. Erving and Washington are merely creating an opportunity. Nothing more and nothing less.

If wins are a measure of success, it might be a long and arduous road. However, if success is measured by opening a door that had been shut, this team has already won the race. Perhaps NASCAR will someday see a Latin driver or a Jewish driver behind the wheel. Somewhere up in heaven, Wendell Scott, the first African American driver in NASCAR, is smiling broadly.

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Copyright 1998 Jeff Gordon Online.
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