Recently, the North Carolina Motorsports Association (NCMA) and the North Carolina Motorsports Foundation (NCMF) honored motorsports legend Sam Belnavis with the announcement of the Sam Belnavis Scholarship Award. At the same time NASCAR legend Richard Petty presented him with a NCMF Lifetime Achievement Award. The Sam Belnavis Scholarship will be given annually in the amount of $5,000.
Sam Belnavis has been a pioneer in motorsports for more than thirty years. He joined Miller Brewing Company in the late 1970s, and in 1978 was chosen to manage the new sports marketing department. He broke into NASCAR when he signed driver Bobby Allison to a Miller sponsorship contract. Two years later Bobby Allison won the series championship in the #22 Miller High Life Ford.
Belnavis blazed paths, as a general manager and race team owner. He introduced the National Guard to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series as a sponsor of his team, BelCar Racing, with legendary crew chief Travis Carter and Todd Bodine as the driver.
“The most gratifying part of my motorsports career was spent working to ensure that diversity and inclusion from a career perspective was not overlooked. NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has helped to bridge that gap. Most people, namely students, do not realize that career opportunities NASCAR offers outside of the driver. I hope to change that perspective” said Belnavis.
Although Belnavis has retired as Chief Diversity Officer and Owner-Designate at Roush Fenway Racing, he is still active, keeping up the sport and the team. He is Chairman Emeritus of the board for the North Carolina Motorsports Foundation.
Belnavis resides in Concord, North Carolina. He is past president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte. He and his wife, Chris, of 55 years, are the parents of four children and seven grandchildren. Belnavis is a life member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and a member of Jonesville AME Zion Church in Matthews, North Carolina.