You may remember an announcement early last year when Busch Light launched a new program aimed at creating more gender equality in NASCAR, particularly on the racetrack.
The Anheuser-Busch brand committed to spending $10 million over three years to elevate women in NASCAR with the Busch Light Accelerate Her program. The objective was provide more funding, track time, media exposure and training to prospective female NASCAR racers aged 21 or older.
“Busch Light has been an iconic sponsor in NASCAR for decades and we’ve been lucky to witness some of the greatest women drivers in history, but it can’t be argued that the NASCAR Cup Series field is dominated by male drivers,” said Krystyn Stowe, senior brand director of Busch Family Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “Through our sponsorship rights and our platform, we’re seizing the opportunity to make historic progress toward gender inclusivity and while the immediate program goals may start here, we hope the sentiment will carry far beyond that, encouraging the broadcast level of inclusivity across all sports.”
Seven female drivers received the inaugural sponsorship's through the Busch Light Accelerate Her Program: Jennifer Jo Cobb, Toni Breidinger, Natalie Decker, Amber Balcaen, Brittney Zamora, Stephanie Moyer and Melissa Fifield.
Busch Light mentioned they would invest directly “in every” female driver 21 or older and put in place a program to track their development, improve their access to the sport and celebrate their success. A portion of the $10 million commitment was said to be reserved as a standing sponsorship fund for up-and-coming drivers and most people believed the bulk of the funding was reserved for Hailie Deegan but nothing to this point has been seen down that avenue.
So what has happened since? Most people agree that they have heard or seen anything from the program since the initial announcement including some of the drivers who were initially announced as part of the program.
In recent conversations with almost half of the initial participants, while they were excited at the launch of the program they have not found that the program has delivered on the goal of providing more funding, track time, media exposure and training.
A recent inquiry in regards to if the program still existed was answered with an upcoming announcement that was released early last week. Noticing the lack of coverage, it seems that the program update has fallen flat with very little attention and fan fair.
The announcement was to announce that WIMNA (Women In Motorsports North America) was working with Busch Light to deliver the next phase of the struggling program.
"Last year, Busch Light seized the opportunity to accelerate gender equality in motorsports, and we're pleased to be bringing WIMNA onboard to strengthen initial efforts through the next phase of Accelerate Her with the 2023 Contingency Fund Program," said Krystyn Stowe, Head of Marketing, Busch Family and Natural Family at Anheuser-Busch. “As experts in the space with plenty of heart and passion for building opportunities that create an equitable playing field, WIMNA is the perfect partner to lead this year’s efforts in providing even more women drivers with opportunities for advancement on and off the track.”
This new points system, created by WIMNA, empowers and rewards women drivers based on their merit and race results throughout the season. The system incorporates several factors, including the different lengths of races, the size of the fields, the level of competition, and the cost of competing in NASCAR-sanctioned races. Eligible participants in the program will accumulate points during the 2023 season – as of February 1, 2023. Designed to celebrate their success within the sport and to help fuel opportunities for even more women pursuing careers in NASCAR. At the end of the year, the top three points earners will be rewarded $125,000, $50,000, and $25,000, respectively.
More information about the program can be found here: https://womeninmotorsportsna.com/AH
While a $200,000 points fund appreciated, we wonder if this is really making the impact or hitting the mark on the initial goal of the program. If anything, this seems to be rewarding those who are already breaching the barriers.
If a female driver already has funding, track time, media exposure and the training to compete for the additional rewards, they are probably not the target who could most use the benefits boasted in the initial announcement.
The additional program is targeted to those competing in eligible NASCAR & ARCA series but has no place for any female racing in other series with the hopes of eventual some day competing on the main NASCAR stage. Most experts agree that the next female driver in NASCAR will come from midgets, sprint cars, modified, late models or even drag racing where women have been breaking the barrier and competing with the boys equally for quite some time.
At this time it is unknown how much of the initial $10,000,000 commitment has been spent or how much of that has been directly provided to the drivers for direct funding, track time, media exposure and training. While our readers have been asking for updates on the program and questioning if the money is being well spent, we remain hopeful to see some benefits of the program on track soon.
For now, the program seems to be sadly be missing its mark! What do you think? From someone who personally would love to see it succeed, I hope to see more soon!
See the announcement from WIMNA:
Initial Video Announcement of the "Accelerate Her" program: