University of Texas graduate and former AT&T executive Rudy Rodriguez believes that there can be a successful marriage between the nation?s fastest-growing minority group and the fastest-growing spectator sport, NASCAR racing. The Dallas native has teamed up with business collaborate Mike Vazquez to form the first, all Latino NASCAR team -- HRT (Hispanic Racing Team) Motorsports.
As an urbanite, I don?t see the fascination with NASCAR racing. To me it's just like being on the freeway during afternoon commute with a jump suit and helmet on. The American-made cars roar around the track at speeds close to 200 miles an hour, for hours at a time.
I have been lost at high speeds more times than I care to admit. NASCAR racing somehow formalizes this unfortunate process and sells tickets. Spectators sit and wait patiently until the drivers make it around the track then stand and "root?, or in NASCAR circles ?hoot?, it?s like a two mile wave thing. You can probably down a corn dog before it is your turn to stand up and whoop again.
Stock Car racing has its rock star drivers but lots of the heated banter and occasional fist fight in the stands erupt over the makes of the cars raced, which is based on fanatical product loyalty. The Ford people don?t like the Chevy people, The Chevy people don?t like the Dodge people, and everybody hates the imports.
This brand loyalty thing can work metaphorically regarding America and race. Some Gringos don?t like the Black folks who don?t like the Latinos, and nobody likes the imports. Automobile brand loyalty is even sillier than ethnocentricity, yet people in our society are more concerned about competition rather than cooperation. To me car racing should be about racing not race. That being said, I hope that the Ford?s and Dodges don?t win.
Rodriguez said, ?This has taken a lot of time and knocking on doors to get done. We are committed to seeing this through for a long time.? HRT plans to enter at least five events this season. The team will debut will be at the Carquest Autoparts 300 Busch Series race at Lowe?s Motor Speedway in North Carolina in late May.
Rodriguez said, ?NASCAR started in Charlotte, so let the Hispanic invasion start in Charlotte?. Rodriquez apparently have never driven on the San Diego freeway over the last 25 years.
I believe that HRT?s chances of winning at Charlotte, and elsewhere on the southern circuit can be greatly increased if they can get the other NASCAR teams to paint their cars to look like police cruisers.
Team partner Mike Vazquez said, ?We hope this will open new venues into NASCAR for (Hispanic) race fans all over the world. NASCAR is the fastest-growing, most exciting form of racing in America today, and the Hispanic community?s interest is largely untapped. Hopefully we can help change that.?
I don?t think it is the absence of Latino role model racecar drivers that has traditionally kept Latinos away from NASCAR events. It is the legions of half-crazed drunk rednecks that does it for me.
The good news is that the team has a corporate sponsor so the fellas don?t have to use their Dad?s car. HRT?s major sponsor is Panama-based Ciclon Energy Drink. Veteran Indianapolis 500 open-wheel driver Roberto Guerrero will drive the No. 09 Chevrolet at the first race.
The team plans to participate in the ?full Busch Series?, (They really should call it something else) in 2003. If sponsorship can be found, younger brother Jamie Guerrero will drive a second car for HRT in 2003. Until then he has to share Mom?s mini van with his sister just as long it?s to go back and forth to school and no side trips.
Vazquez said, ?There are a lot of Hispanic NASCAR fans. We hope to add more. Our idea is not to change NASCAR. We just want to add something to it. We want to add the passion of Hispanics and our passion for racing, new faces, new fans, and new corporations.?
I have long been a Chevy fan, and will look to see if the HRT racing team can indeed win, place or show. If their NASCAR undertaking is based on courage integrity, guts, and not just ethereal meaningless population numbers, I wish them the very best of luck. Everybody loves a winne, even if the winner sometimes loses the big races.
The joy can be in the "?Y Que?" At least we did it, so everyone knows that for Latinos, everything is possible, even after the last car crosses the line. Even if the cards are stacked against you.