Undercover Boss may help him in his quest: In one segment of this Sunday's show he is trained as a rear tire carrier by Dion Williams, a rare African-American pit crew member who works for the Hendrick Motor Sports/Mark Martin team. (He isn't impressed by Phelps' skills.) Williams also notes that even though Nascar isn't historically a diverse environment, his friends and family have started following the sport since he become involved.
In a Q&A session with BNET that will be published in full on Monday, Phelps admitted that displays of the secessionist emblem at races aren't helping Nascar keep its crown as the franchise sport with the largest average attendances (99,853 per event this year, far above those of the NFL):
We don't condone that type of display and putting the flags out, the Confederate flags. That is not something that we think is good for the sport, candidly. So it's something that we see, candidly, we see fewer and fewer of them as you go to races and you know, ultimately it'll be something that'll die away completely.Phelps admits that Nascar under-indexes with minorities, and the sport has a marketing program in place to target them:
So we have programs that are both on track programs to try to get minorities and females, quite candidly, an opportunity to race in our cars.
For example we've got a show that's been on BET this season, called Changing Lanes. And it's a show that showcases our Drive for Diversity class, which is an on-the-track program we have to try to get young minorities and females seat times in our cars. And that's an important way to develop young talent, and it's very expensive to race a car. You know, we don't have the good fortune of, say basketball, where you need a hoop and a ball and a pair of sneaks and you're good to go. For us it's far more expensive to train young people to drive our racecars.Nascar CEO Brian France -- who couldn't do Undercover Boss because he's too recognizeable on Pit Road -- condemned the flag five years ago, but as the above photograph from a March 2010 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway shows, some fans haven't yet gotten the message.
Image of Atlanta Speedway by Flickr user FDTate, CC; Phelps and Williams via CBS.