Wednesday, August 23, 2006

NASCAR Facing Racial Rap

More details have been released concerning the lawsuit filed by a former NASCAR motorcoach driver who was the victim of an alleged racial prank in 1999. David Scott, a former motorcoach driver for car owners Roger Penske and Michael Kranefuss, is suing NASCAR, claiming the sanctioning body failed to fulfill their promise of a job after the incident.

Scott, who is black, says he was subjected to racially motivated harassment during several run-ins with white motorcoach drivers during the 1999 season, culminating in an incident in July at New Hampshire International Speedway when two white motorcoach drivers -- Mike Culberson and Ray Labbe -- confronted Scott, one of them wearing a white pillowcase over his head in Ku Klux Klan fashion. Culberson and Labbe were quickly fired by their teams, and NASCAR revoked their competition licenses.

Scott is seeking back pay and compensatory damages from NASCAR, claiming that during an investigation into the incident, then-Vice President of Competition Mike Helton told him, “We'll just hire you so we won't have to worry about anyone bothering you.” Scott claims that NASCAR never followed through, despite repeated promises to do so.

When news of the incident became public a few weeks later at Watkins Glen, Scott says former NASCAR Vice President George Pyne flew him home to North Carolina on a NASCAR plane, saying NASCAR was concerned about his safety. Scott’s suit quotes Pyne as saying, “There are going to be reporters at the track. We want to control the situation. We don't want this to get out of hand. We're concerned about racing fans throwing objects. This is a move to protect you. People may view you as a trouble maker.”

Scott says he accepted a settlement from Penske and Kranefuss in early 2000, believing that he would be hired by NASCAR. Despite a series of communications with Helton and Pyne over the next several years, Scott says no job offer was ever made. He says Helton left him a phone message in February of this year saying, “There is nothing for you, NASCAR has done all that they can do.”

Scott told The Associated Press this week, "My impression was they wanted me to get a job at Bi-Lo grocery or UPS. That's not what I wanted to do, and that's not what we discussed. I needed them to help me find a job within the sport. I didn't need help finding work outside of the sport."

Scott’s attorney, Ricardo Aguirre, admitted that the seven years that elapsed between the incident and the lawsuit will seem curious to some. "The lay person is going to say `this guy is an idiot, he's just out to get some money,’" he said. "But up until February of this year, he…was in constant contact with Mike Helton. There was a dialogue."

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the sanctioning body never promised Scott a job in the sport, but did try to help him find other jobs, all of which Scott turned down.

"We did everything we said we would do,” said Poston, adding that NASCAR takes allegations of racial harassment seriously. "Back in 1999, both NASCAR and the employers of those responsible for the deplorable prank took swift and severe action," he said. "There is no place in NASCAR for intolerance. NASCAR has not and will not stand for harassment of any kind."


  1. Was it "Slugger" Labbe who was involved in the racial incident that started all this?

  2. No it was not. Ray Labbe is Slugger's father.