Sam Belnavis, the former Chief Diversity Officer and Owner-Designate for Roush Fenway Racing and a motorsports pioneer, died Wednesday.
Belnavis was a trailblazer as a Black general manager and team owner in NASCAR. He introduced the National Guard as a sponsor of his team, BelCar Racing, with crew chief Travis Carter and driver Todd Bodine.
Prior to that, Belnavis had joined the Miller Brewing Company in the late 1970s and managed the sports marketing department. He broke into NASCAR when he signed driver Bobby Allison to a Miller Brewing Company sponsorship contract. Two years later, Allison won the NASCAR Cup Series championship in the No. 22 Miller High Life Ford.
Upon news of Belnavis’ passing, NASCAR released this statement: “We are saddened by the passing of Sam Belnavis, a true pioneer in motorsports whose tireless work helped foster an inclusive environment throughout NASCAR. For more than 30 years, his efforts as a team owner and executive, as well as his work to support the launch of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program, helped introduce career opportunities in NASCAR to people of color. NASCAR offers its deepest condolences to Sam’s friends and family.”
The Belnavis Collective, NASCAR’s Black Employee Resource Group, is named after Mr. Belnavis and will continue to honor him through its mission and goals.