Davis is literally on the fast track to becoming a regular in NASCAR’s top touring division. And while it’s typically the Sprint Cup Series champion who rings the closing bell on the exchange, Davis will do it to ring in Black History Month.
Black History Month is a remembrance of the significant contributions made by African-Americans and the critical events they participated in that shaped America’s National Story. The young and talented Davis is an appropriate ambassador for the February celebration.
An African-American who has ascended from racing Late Model stock cars at Carolina bullrings to campaigning full-fledged stock cars in the regional NASCAR Camping World Series East division, Davis has made the most of his opportunity with JGR’s driver development program.
The driver development program was founded by Joe Gibbs, a winner of three Super Bowls as head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the late Reggie White. In partnership with White, a Hall of Fame defensive end who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers during a 15-year NFL career, JGR formed the driver development program in May 2003 to create a grassroots stock car team that would identify and assist minorities with the desire and talent to make a career in motorsports. In January 2004, the program became reality, thanks in large part to the support of JGR’s sponsors.
As part of that reality, JGR was the first NASCAR team to create a driver development program that assisted minorities, the first team to put its development drivers in victory lane, and the first to graduate one of its protégés to the elite Sprint Cup Series.
On April 10, 2005, Chris Bristol, one of JGR’s original development drivers, started fifth in a 50-lap Late Model race at historic Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and finished first, becoming the first African-American driver to win in the track’s 55-year history.
Since then, JGR has allowed Aric Almirola, a Tampa, Fla.-native of Cuban descent, to climb from campaigning Late Model stock cars for JGR to earning a ride in the Sprint Cup Series for Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he shares the No. 8 car with veteran NASCAR driver Mark Martin.
Davis is the latest driver to find success with JGR. He won multiple races at Hickory in the Limited Late Model and Late Model ranks, and when he won his first race on March 25, 2006, he became just the second African-American to win a stock car race at Hickory, joining Bristol.
Davis, who moved with his father, Harry, to Mooresville, N.C., from Silver Spring, Md., to pursue a racing career, used his success at Hickory to move into the Camping World Series East division, the regional NASCAR touring series that features a 13-race schedule at tracks predominantly based in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. With backing from JGR, Davis scored five top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 2007, including a season-best runner-up effort on April 19 to JGR teammate Joey Logano at Phoenix International Raceway.
In 2008, Davis will continue in the Camping World Series East division, and continue his quest toward a full-time drive in NASCAR’s pinnacle division – the Sprint Cup Series.
“I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do,” Davis said. “Everything I’ve done in life has been about racing, and to have this kind of opportunity means everything. No one has higher expectations than me.”
As Davis pursues his dream, he has gained notoriety. With increased recognition have come opportunities not usually bestowed upon the average 17-year-old. Then again, Davis is far from average.
“Going to New York and ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange is going to be a pretty cool deal,” said Davis, who could have hardly envisioned that a trip to Wall Street would be in the cards when he began racing BMX bikes at age six. “I’ve seen that image on the news I don’t know how many times. To think that’ll be me in a couple of weeks is kind of hard to believe. And to do it on behalf of Black History Month makes it even more important. It’s a moment I’m definitely looking forward to.”
The invitation to Davis was extended by NYSE Euronext to mark Black History Month.
“The New York Stock Exchange will be honored to have Marc Davis, his team and sponsors join us to celebrate Black History Month,” said Robert A. Marchman, EVP-Enforcement/Risk, NYSE Regulation, as well as chairman of NYSE Euronext’s Diversity Council. “Marc is not only a pioneer among African-Americans in auto racing, but also an outstanding role model for young people in the minority community. The commitment by Marc, Joe Gibbs Racing and others to expand opportunities for minorities through education is consistent with NYSE Euronext’s own commitment to diversity and financial literacy. During Black History Month, it is fitting to reflect on the past and look ahead as well, highlighting Marc’s good work, accomplishments and bright future by inviting him to ring the NYSE bell.”
Joining Davis on the Big Board’s balcony will be Harry Davis, Marc’s father and manager; Joe Gibbs, owner of JGR; J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR; Sara White, widow of Reggie White; Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR; Dan Hesse, president and CEO of Sprint; Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries; Tommy Miller, vice chairman of the board, Interstate Batteries; Jim Watkins, general manager of Howard University Radio WHUR-FM; Laurie Tucker, senior vice president of global marketing, FedEx; Michele Kessler, president of M&M’s and CMO of Mars, Inc.; Robert A. Marchman, EVP-Enforcement, NYSE Regulation; and Dale Bernstein, EVP-Human Resources, NYSE Euronext.
Davis is currently a senior at Mooresville Christian Academy and will graduate this May.