Steve Phelps, UVM '85 alum, current president of NASCAR, and a man with deep Vermont roots, spoke to virtual audience on Tuesday, March 9, as part of the annual Hoffman Family Business Lecture Series, hosted by the Grossman School of Business.
Following his presentation and insights into a turbulent period about the sport’s road to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community, the challenges it faced and it’s leadership during the pandemic — Phelps was joined by Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant, UVM's VP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, for a moderated conversation; answering questions posed by the audience.
Phelps’ presentation drew back the curtain and shone a light on how NASCAR arrived at the momentous decision to ban the Confederate flag from its sport, the support of the founding France family, and directly addressed the traumatic finding of a noose in the sports only black driver, Bubba Williams, garage.
Phelps spoke to the aftermath from those incidents, their implications and subsequent initiatives that comprised the sports response, leading to a rebirth of the sport and kickstarting the NASCAR brand. In addition to attracting a new, younger demographic, innovations around the customer experience are changing how NASCAR is perceived, ratings are up and sold-out events are once again becoming the norm. High-profile celebrities, such as Michael Jordan and Pitbull, have now joined NASCAR starting their own teams, and more corporate sponsors are actively participating in this new era in the sports history.
You can watch the full lecture and Q&A below:
The Hoffman Family Business Lecture provides opportunities for students to learn about innovative business practices from leading scholars and practitioners.