Sioux pilot seeks to race in NASCAR

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.

– As a pilot with the South Carolina Air Force
Reserves, Captain Andy Winstead flies all over the world. He has completed
over 60 combat missions overseas in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 34-year-old pilot for United Parcel Service, who holds a bachelor’s
degree in aeronautics, has a passion for flying, having flown F-16 jets in
the Air National Guard and C-17 jets for the reserves.

A Sioux Indian from North Carolina, Winstead became the first American
Indian to fly an F-16.

Despite his love of flying, Winstead’s initial passion as a teenager was
racing. A go-cart for Christmas at age 12 enabled him to start race in his
hometown, Burlington, N.C., and from there, he began racing late-model
cars. He’s raced in the Goody’s Dash For Cash Series, one of NASCAR’s
smaller touring series, and the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series.

After reading an article in a newspaper about a special program supported
by NASCAR to increase diversity, Winstead contacted NASCAR to learn more
about the program called “Drive for Diversity.”

The program opened its first race tryout in 2003 for the 2004 season, and
even though Winstead had asked to participate in this program, he was
overlooked by the directors. The Drive for Diversity program selected one
woman and three African-American drivers its first year. Winstead said he
was disappointed because the lineup didn’t include any American Indian
drivers, and he had expressed an interest in the program to the director.

“I was told that my name had been lost in the shuffle,” Winstead said.
“Each time I talked with them, I explained that if they were going to have
a diverse program, they needed to include American Indians.”

For the 2005 tryout in October, Winstead was invited to participate, but he
wasn’t selected as one of the team drivers.

“I was the only Native American participating in that tryout, but I wasn’t
selected,” Winstead said. “That’s very frustrating. To have a diverse
program with one Indian who’s a fighter pilot, has a college degree, and is
a public speaker, I don’t know what it takes to get selected.”

Jonathan Norman, Drive for Diversity program director, said the program,
which is operated by Access Marketing and Communications of Charlotte, N.C.
and endorsed by NASCAR, is going into its second season and has expanded
the number of teams to eight for the 2005 season.

“We did expand it in 2005 to give as many opportunities to drivers as
possible,” Norman said. “We’re constantly reviewing the program. We always
want to make sure we’re as close to being a great solution for diversity in
motor sports as we can.”

Motor sports experts review the drivers’ backgrounds and performance,
Norman said. Typically, drivers participate in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly
Series, Saturday night races that are the grassroots of NASCAR and a series
in which Winstead has participated.

Norman said the team owners choose the drivers, and for 2005, the program
includes African-American, Hispanic and female drivers.

“Unfortunately, Andy wasn’t selected,” Norman said.

In the 2005 Drive for Diversity Driver Testing and Evaluation Combine, 18
drivers were invited to participate, including Winstead, and eight were
selected, Norman said.

“I feel like I bring a lot of good assets into the equation, and I’m
frustrated and baffled I’m not selected, and I don’t know what I could do,”
Winstead said.

Winstead said he’s starting to run out of options, but he said he’s hoping
someone will come along who wants to sponsor a role model to insure
American Indians aren’t left out.

Winstead was sponsored by the Miccosukee Indian Tribe in the Goody’s
Series. Sponsors are very important, Winstead said, noting that for each
race, drivers must buy a new set of tires that can cost $1,600 or more.

In 1999, Winstead incorporated Warrior Motor Sports, creating the first
American Indian-owned race team.

“I tried to look toward American Indian organizations and corporations for
sponsorship with the idea that this was a great way to create a role model
as well as advertise for Native-owned companies and organizations,” he
said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anybody who had the same vision
I had. So I paid for it myself as best I could to at least insure Native
Americans still had a presence.”

He certified his company with the National Minority Supplier Development
Council. Winstead hasn’t raced in the Goody’s Series in the past two years,
having moved to a weekly series at his local track in Charleston to stay
involved with racing. But with that track having been recently closed
Winstead said he’ll have to race in Myrtle Beach, S.C. if he can find
sponsorship.

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