Siegel Heading Drive For Diversity
January 14, 2009 | 8:56 A.M. EST
The Drive for Diversity program had been outsourced to Access Marketing & Communications for its initial five years, and NASCAR has now contracted it out to Siegel, who sees his new opportunity as one where he can have a broad impact on the sport.
"DEI was a tremendous opportunity and it was an incredible challenge and a great experience," Siegel said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I had the opportunity to experience things in my tenure there that a lot of people probably don't get to (despite having) more time in the sport.
"This gives me another look at the sport and wanting to see what I want to do more long term. I know I want to have a long future in NASCAR. This is an exciting opportunity to stretch across teams, talent, the sanctioning body and the commercial partners."
Siegel's departure ended a two-year stint at DEI. He joined the team when it was in the final stages of trying to keep Dale Earnhardt Jr. with the team. Earnhardt Jr. opted to leave for Hendrick Motorsports.
Siegel oversaw the buyout of Ginn Racing and the merger of the engine shop with Richard Childress Racing as well.
While DEI had improved engine reliability and expanded to four teams for 2008 thanks to those transactions, the organization's top cars finished 14th and 16th in the owners points and didn't win a race. None of its drivers made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
DEI and Chip Ganassi Racing announced a partnership last November, forming Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The team is working out of the Ganassi shop and is expected to be run by mostly Ganassi personnel.
"Just from economic necessity and really trying to find a principal partner that was a good fit for DEI to go into tough economic times, I reached out to Chip," Siegel said.
"Chip is a hands-on owner. He's something that DEI hasn't had and needs from the principal (owner) standpoint. I'm going to continue to work with them on some of the marketing initiatives and revenue-generating initiatives as a client. But this will allow me to get another perspective in NASCAR and more experience."
Siegel now will turn his focus to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which has had about 10 drivers each year that have competed weekly at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks or in one of the NASCAR regional series. It also has a crew component in an attempt to make the NASCAR teams more diverse as a whole.
"We're going to try to get more resources -- give corporate and commercial partners a return on their investment and grow the resource base to help fund the program," Siegel said. "NASCAR is in a catch-22 in that they are the sanctioning body and they provide seed capital for it -- that's why the program is independent."
Before joining DEI in February 2007, Siegel worked in sports and entertainment as a representative of athletes and musicians. When he joined DEI, he was the highest-ranking African-American team official in the sport.
"We are proud to have Max and his team managing the Drive for Diversity efforts," NASCAR chairman Brian France said in a statement. "His strategic, operational and marketing experience will be a great benefit to the initiative and the entire industry.
"We're proud of the accomplishments of Drive for Diversity after just five seasons, and we expect Max's involvement will take the initiative to the next level."
DEI was the only Sprint Cup team with a program that was part of the Drive For Diversity in 2008. Siegel was introduced to NASCAR by Reggie White and his diversity program at Joe Gibbs Racing.
One of Siegel's goals is to increase involvement by Cup teams in the NASCAR program.
"I want to make sure that we have a strong relationship with the teams at the top tier," Siegel said. "I am going to certainly reach out to the people I built a good relationship with. Every team out there is trying to develop a pipeline of talent, and I want to figure out how we can get them closely integrated in the program itself."
Siegel also will rejoin the law firm Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis. He was a member of the law firm from 1992-94 before entering the music and athlete management business. The firm has an extensive sports and entertainment practice, and two of its partners recently became athletics directors at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University.