The Top Fuel winner part of NASCAR’s effort for diversity
CONCORD, N.C. — The NASCAR Hall of Fame embraced old-school stars Dale Jarrett, Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts Wednesday evening.
The morning after, it welcomed Antron Brown to its flock.
At 37, Brown doesn’t fit the “new-blood” label, but he’s exactly what NASCAR needs moving forward. He’s now front and center as part of NASCAR’s efforts to help minorities carve a niche in a sport that has struggled to find diversity in its lineup of stars.
Brown, who became the first black champion in NHRA history after winning the Top Fuel championship in 2012, is going to give this stock-car thing a whirl soon.
A bit of unsolicited advice:
Don’t laugh. Brown understands that mastering the basics are critical to any career switch. Brown is simply going testing at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., on May 28. After that, all the vested parties — Brown, Rev Racing and Toyota — will take notes and decide what comes next.
“I know I can go straight, but now I have to put a left-hand turn in there and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Brown said during the announcement Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Right now, I’m in a bowl of water where I can swim. I don’t want to go to a bowl of water and drown.”
The NASCAR hierarchy would love to throw him a life-preserver. Executives are in hyper-drive trying to engage a larger fan base. It’s been a long hard road.
Darrell Wallace Jr., a full-time competitor in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Camping World Truck Series this season, is just the fourth African-American driver to land a full-time ride in one of NASCAR’s three national touring series.
He joins Wendell Scott, Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Lester as African-American drivers who have run full seasons in one of NASCAR’s top three series. Scott — who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but failed to garner enough votes this year — stands alone as the only black driver to win a NASCAR race.
But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here tracking Brown’s progress.
Let him settle in his seat first and let’s see what happens.
Assuming Brown does well on the .416-mile oval in Virginia, Rev Racing owner Max Siegel will likely consider putting Brown in a late-model race before the end of 2013 NASCAR season, assuming there are no conflicts with the NHRA schedule.
Rev Racing is an academy-style developmental organization that is part of NASCAR’s diversity program. Brown is not exactly a young pup, but hopefully a quick study.
“I think the hardest part is that I know I’m in shape, but I’m not in conditioning shape to drive a car — like driving shape that you would call it,” Brown said. “To go out there and to actually execute different ways around different race tracks — every race track is different and has got different pitched turns and stuff like that, and I have to learn that craft. That only comes with time and being behind the wheel and driving these cars.
What I know I have in front of me right now is that I drive for four seconds at a time. This is a lot different, and I know it’s a big learning curve and this is just trying to take that step to get familiar with it to see if I can do it.”