Siegel the Right Pick, But It Will Take Support for Him to Succeed

David Poole, That’s Racing, January 15, 2009

NASCAR hit a ringing double on Wednesday, making a deal that puts Max Siegel in charge of managing the Drive for Diversity program.

In hiring Siegel, stock-car racing’s leadership took a big step toward bringing a level of credibility to its diversity initiative. {snip}

Siegel left Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he was president of global operations, to go back to Baker & Daniels, an Indianapolis legal firm where he’d worked from 1992 through 1994. That firm, with Siegel leading the effort, will take over management of the Drive for Diversity program.

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I’ve said it before and I still believe that NASCAR needs to put a lot money behind the whole function of driver development, and diversity is a big piece of that process. Developing drivers of all colors and genders is an investment in this sport’s future, and especially in these tough times NASCAR needs to put its money where its future is.

NASCAR officials will tell you that they don’t think it’s proper for the sanctioning body to pick out drivers to support financially over others. But that’s the whole reason the Drive for Diversity program was set up to be run by an outside agency like Access Marketing and now Baker & Daniels in the first place. NASCAR supports the program and then the program picks the drivers and administers the financial support.

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I think 5 percent of every deal NASCAR has or makes with an “official” sponsor should be earmarked for driver development. If it costs a company $2 million a year to be the “official” tofu of NASCAR, then $100,000 of that should go toward driver development.

That sounds like a pittance, but the 5 percent rule should apply to every deal NASCAR makes–including the title sponsorship deal with Sprint and the television contract. Sprint’s deal is supposedly right at $70 million a year. That’s $3.5 million for development. The television contract averages about $500 million a year. That’s $25 million. (All of that shouldn’t come out of NASCAR’s share of the TV money–the 2 percent should come off first before the drivers and owners (through race purses) and the tracks get their share. Everybody should be contributing to this.)

According to a list on NASCAR.com, there are about 50 “official” sponsorship deals in place. At $100,000 a pop (and that’s just a wild guess), that’s another $5 million for development. So we’re at $33.5 million. Even if that’s 10 percent off, we’re still looking at $30 million a year that could be used to help develop young drivers.

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