Daytona 500: Jusan Hamilton becomes 1st Black race director

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jusan Hamilton fell hard for fast cars, dreaming as a kid of a NASCAR career as he drove at dirt tracks in New York. He contended for wins, kept pace with top drivers as he bounced from series to series and trusted his talent enough to know that he could succeed as a professional driver.

What Hamilton didn’t see as his family traversed around tracks were other kids that looked like him. And while a dearth of minorities didn’t deter him from racing, it did lead other friends and family to wonder what he was doing with his time each weekend.

“Why does an African-American kid from upstate New York have an interest in motorsports?” Hamilton said he was often asked.

The answer was simple, based less on breaking barriers and blazing trails, and more about simply pursuing his passion.

“For me, it was, this is what I enjoy,” Hamilton said. “This is what I love doing. There’s a huge connection with me and my family to go to the race track each weekend and spend the time together.”

The 31-year-old Hamilton did make it in racing, not in a driving career that petered out — to a great degree because of the financial strain on his family — but behind the scenes for over a decade in NASCAR. He has worked in event production, social media, shepherded the series’ Drive for Diversity program (that rejected him as a teen) and eventually was named race director for NASCAR’s three national series.