The Grambling car No. 44 was the first car to represent an HBCU in NASCAR history. (Courtesy of NY Racing Team)
For the first time in NASCAR history, the colors and logo of an historically black university whipped around the Daytona 500 as the NY Racing Team’s car highlighted Grambling State University.
HBCU League Pass Plus, a streaming network for Black college sports, is sponsor of the number 44 car, a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Greg Biffle. At Sunday’s race, the black car was adorned with Grambling State logos and gold numerals and lettering.
“It means a lot,” John Cohen, owner of the NY Racing Team and a Grambling alumnus, said in an interview with the Illuminator. “(Representing Grambling at the Daytona 500) gave more awareness to HBCUs and how many people of color in all industries came from HBCUs.”
Grambling’s NASCAR debut caught the attention of other HBCUs and even the Louisiana Legislature.
Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, a member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, told fellow House members about the Grambling car as they concluded their special redistricting session last week.
“Good things happen when we work together,” Jefferson said. “The driver of this vehicle doesn’t look like me, but he’s driving a car that highlights Grambling State University.”
Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System that includes Grambling, said at a board meeting last week that he’s “really excited” about the Grambling car and what it means for the university.
“When you create an entity like Grambling State – that other people want to put their money into partnering with – that’s a sign of the renaissance and the resurgence that’s occurred at that university,” Henderson said.
Biffle finished in 36th place in the Daytona 500, hampered by a faulty fuel line.
Cohen, who is Black, is one of only two minority team owners in NASCAR. He said he plans on highlighting more HBCUs at NASCAR races.
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“Grambling was the first because I went to school there, but there will be more schools,” Cohen said.
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HBCU branding planned for future races include Stillman College, Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T and Norfolk State, according to Cohen.
Cohen said NASCAR has continually “been doing things to expand the demographic of the sport” and representing HBCU’s could also bring in more Black fans to racing.
Many HBCU’s – including Grambling – held watch parties for the Daytona 500 because of the Grambling car.
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