As part of an effort to introduce more minorities into the world of auto racing, Howard University’s radio station sponsored a car in Saturday’s South Boston Speedway race, making it the first urban radio station to sponsor a NASCAR race.
Driving the No. 92 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 16-year-old Marc Davis placed fourth in the 150-lap race, which ended with a seven-car pileup.
The sponsorship is part of an initiative launched last year between the radio station, NASCAR, Pocono Raceway and Joe Gibbs Racing, the NASCAR team of the Washington Redskins head coach. The partnership includes an extensive on-air campaign featuring interviews with NASCAR drivers. Last year, the station, WHUR 96.3 FM, took nearly 40 listeners on a trip last June to the Pocono Raceway NASCAR Nextel Cup in Pocono, Pa. For many, the trip was their first NASCAR experience.
We are extremely proud of Marc’s placing,” says Jim Watkins, the station’s general manager. “This is just a first step in what we hope will be a long list of his racing achievements in the WHUR car.”
The race, however, does not mark the start of Davis’s career. According to the Joe Gibbs Racing Web site, Davis started BMX racing at age 6. He moved on to quarter-midget bikes at age 8, and then on to the junior dragsters in the National Hot Rod Association. Inspired by the success stories of his father, a former F-1 boat racer, and his older brother, a BMX racer, Davis wanted trophies to add to the family’s collection.
At 15, he became the first driver to win both the Dirt Young Lion Division and the Road Course Young Lion Division in the same season. In his rookie year with Joe Gibbs Racing, Marc posted six wins, six poles, 17 top five finishes and placed in the top 10 in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series 20 times.
Davis, a Silver Spring, Md. native, lives in North Carolina and is a junior at Mooresville Christian Academy.
Watkins says WHUR is always looking at ways to expose its listeners to new opportunities and experiences. WHUR listeners, selected through an essay contest, were given the opportunity to ride on the racetrack and took a tour of the raceway. Pocono Raceway’s president also gave a 45-minute presentation about the opportunities available for minorities.
The project with the raceway led to WHUR getting involved with another NASCAR project, the Joe Gibbs Diversity Driving program, an initiative to get more minorities involved in the world of NASCAR. It was as part of that program that the radio station learned that Davis, who is Black, was looking for a sponsor.
“Marc is a very interesting young kid, and once we found out he was a Washingtonian, one of us, we kind of adopted him,” says Watkins. “We are looking at a long term relationship with him. He can be a great role model for kids and for minorities.
“For many years [minorities] have not been invited to the NASCAR races,” he says. “Well, this is what we assume because we don’t see anyone in NASCAR that looks like us.” However, he says the mentality is changing. “Look at tennis and golf; we did not think it was for us but that thought has evolved. Minorities getting into NASCAR and other fields that we thought we were not invited to is part of an evolution, and WHUR wants to be part of making this happen.”
WHUR will be sponsoring Davis again, at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del., on September 21, as part of the NASCAR Grand National Division Busch East Series. The race is a regional NASCAR touring series that will feature a 14-race schedule at tracks throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic.
He will be driving the No. 18 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
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