DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When Josh Sims reports on NASCAR this season, it looks more like the stock car series these days — from the garage to the grandstands to the top brass.
Yes, Sims is proud to be the first Black pit reporter for the Daytona 500 and to be one of the main faces of the network’s NASCAR coverage thanks to his rapid rise at Fox.
More than that, Sims sees that NASCAR may be giving up on unconquered initiatives for people of color. For women. For any minority who may have had an uneasy relationship with a set established in the South 75 years ago, a generation before the civil rights era.
Sims’ journey from a NASCAR novice through a sports anchor gig in Charlotte, North Carolina, fueled her passion for the sport to lead to her biggest assignment yet: pit reporting as a Black man from one of auto racing’s signature events.
“I never started first,” said the 35-year-old Sims. “I never sought to make history. I just wanted to be the best at what I was doing, whether it was hosting or reporting. At the same time, I understand the platform and what it means to me to be doing this.”
Sims has a full workload this season. He is a Cup Series pit reporter, teams with Regan Smith as an Xfinity Series reporter and is part of the host rotation for the FS1 show “Race Hub.”
And this season, he wants to share the stories of what he sees on the track beyond the in-race reports and spectacular finishes. Minorities aren’t necessarily the main demographic for the series, but they can certainly get a bigger share of the market.
“I think if more people out there saw it, people who looked at them, instead of just the driver, the crew chief, you might be more inclined to feel, hey, I feel a little more comfortable at go to the road,” said Sims . “That could help get more people to the track and get more diverse faces in the stands. It doesn’t have to be more people, it’s showing what you already have.”
It was a very low bar, of course, but the garage and the grid and the fans seem to be more diverse now than before when NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its tracks and symptoms. NASCAR is still very white, but NASCAR President Steve Phelps isn’t exaggerating when he says you notice the change when you walk through the garage.
“I think the 2020 events have allowed the sport to become younger and more diverse,” he said at his state-of-the-art sports launch in November.
Among the notable accomplishments: Jusan Hamilton, who last year became the first Black race director in Daytona 500 history, will do it again this season. Amanda Oliver, a Black woman, negotiates high-profile deals as NASCAR’s senior vice president. John Ferguson, a Black man, is the chief human resources officer.
The owners now include Pitbull and Michael Jordan, whose team features Bubba Wallace, the Black driver who inspired the flag ban. Among the rising stars of the development series is Rajah Caruth, a 20-year-old graduate of the “Drive for Diversity” program.
Phelps said NASCAR was committed to strengthening ties with various programs that can attract a broader fan base, from Boys & Girls Clubs that “some of our other areas of partnership that really speak to what’s happening in the African American community, what’s happening in the Hispanic community, Latino (to) what’s happening in the LGBTQ community.”
While the toxic nature of social media often makes it easier for haters to find Sims and others, he is popular every weekend on the road.
“I never have to feel uncomfortable,” he said. “You get things here and there in terms of messages being emailed or sent to you but that’s par for the course if you’re a minority in the sport, a woman in the sport, even white drivers get things like that. But for every one or two of those, I get a lot more things from people who are excited that I’m here. You know, focus on the good.”
Raised in East Brunswick, New Jersey, Sims is a Villanova graduate who followed the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and has remained a fan of most Philly teams.
“I grew up in Jersey, so not exactly NASCAR country,” Sims said. “Growing up, you know the Jimmies and the Dale Seniors and the Tony Stewarts and everybody but I didn’t follow it week in and week out.”
His interest in NASCAR grew in 2015 when he moved to Charlotte and hosted a pre-race show on the local Fox affiliate. Sims covered his first Daytona 500 in 2016 when Denny Hamlin passed Martin Truex Jr. to reach the closest finish in the history of the race.
“I was like, I’m all in,” Sims said.
Charlotte can feel like a small town to a city and Sims has kept in touch with NASCAR friends and contacts. Fox Sports executives hired Sims in 2021 as a reporter for their NASCAR shows. He was also the first Black pit reporter in any NASCAR series, for Truck races.
“I hope that young people like me see them doing it and now they recognize that it’s possible,” Sims said. “Hopefully I can blaze a trail for them one day to say, hey, because Josh Sims did it, I can do it too. And that’s what matters.”
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