(Los Angeles Times) The black NASCAR truck with a white "54" on the side gleamed on pit road as its driver walked up for the night's race, prompting three dozen photographers and well-wishers to edge closer.
The attraction was 19-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr. As Wallace posed for the cameras at Daytona International Speedway, the public address announcer called out his name and added: "That's a driver many people are waiting to see."
Indeed they are — especially the executives who run NASCAR — because Wallace is an African American.
Despite NASCAR's growth into one of the nation's most popular sports and a driver-diversity effort now in its 10th year, stock-car racing lacks a full-time black driver at its top levels. No African American drives in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup racing series — where such stars as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon compete — and there isn't a full-time black driver in its second-highest level, the Nationwide Series.