Hayden Swank is a 19-year-old NASCAR driver from Woodstock, GA, who’s making a name for himself in a sport that’s hard to succeed in without family ties and heavy bank.
Swank an African-American driver, who attends Georgia University and has had 100s of races on the amateur level, is hoping to become the second, current Black full-time driver on the circuit.
In NASCAR’s top three series, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace is currently the only Black driver, and that dates back six decades and over 2,600 races in NASCAR’s top three series.
So there’s definitely room for one more brother on racing’s elite circuit.
Next Black Prince of NASCAR?
It’s difficult to make it to the top in a sport riddled with systemic racism and an over-reliance on corporate sponsorship and, to a degree, nepotism, but Swank, who is working his way up from the minor leagues of racing to NASCAR or INDYCAR, is up to the task. Racing has been running through his bloodstream ever since he was a kid.
Swank’s family relocated to Woodstock, GA when he was a boy, which fueled his desire to get behind the wheel of something fast.
“I grew up playing with hot wheels and that coupled with going to the track itself made me wanna race cars,” Swank told the Shadow League in an exclusive interview.
Swank has a chance to shatter a glass ceiling in NASCAR, becoming one of a handful of men to make it into that exclusive fraternity. He’s getting closer to that dream every day and he’s quick to credit Bubba Wallace as an inspiration.
Since Wallace’s rise to superstardom, NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has grown in popularity and the talent level of the participants.
Swank is a product of that program. As a 16-year-old race car driver, he was selected for the program and raced for Rev Racing in Atlanta and Charlotte.
Dan Porter’s Overtime Is Right On Time
“It won’t be easy but I’m up for the task at hand,” Swank told TSL. “I expect to get the results I desire from the work I put in.”
With the backing of Overtime and its CEO Dan Porter, Swank Motorsports has the basic sponsorship support and finances to enable the talented driver’s ascension to great heights in NASCAR. His soul glow will be a huge addition to NASCAR’s segregated circuit if he gets there.
The burgeoning sports media network offers content through multiple platforms and the partnership is a match made in heaven. The plan is to enhance Swank’s public profile and visibility with platforms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. And also on TV (in a partnership with regional Sportsnet New York) and through Overtime itself.
I think I’ve made it pic.twitter.com/APo1xOwzw8
— Hayden Swank (@haydenswank4) April 27, 2021
RACE: Sponsored By Old Spice
Overtime and Swank have an 8-part series called RACE sponsored by Old Spice, beginning Thursday, April 29th.
This series will detail his journey in the sport, one that is saturated with systemic racism, family connections and corporate sponsorship which also usually stems from family ties. He says he’s excited to have his story thus far be broadcast to the world and hopes it will bring more followers.
“Overtime and Dan Porter came in at a time where I needed them,” said Swank. “This series will show who I am and what I’m about to the viewers, while also showing them the ins and out of the sport.”
Portner’s willing ear and keen understanding of what “The Year 2020” meant for Black people historically and moving forward, enabled this power move between Overtime and Swank Motorsports.
With racial tensions boiling, a contentious Presidential election fueling emotions and the COVID pandemic raging throughout the world and disproportionately affecting people of color, Bubba Wallace was at the center of the fight for social justice and more importantly an end to systemic racism in NASCAR.
In a post on Linkedln, Swank explains in detail how the stars aligned and Overtime’s dive into diversifying NASCAR developed.
“It was now June and I still had no hopes of getting on the track for this season. But, thanks to Bubba Wallace’s experiences in the sport being publicized more than ever, more people understood the importance of diversity in this sport, and the value that a minority driver could bring to a brand. On July, 8th, I sent Dan Porter of Overtime this message:
I am an aspiring NASCAR driver and sophomore business major at UGA. I am also one of the only young Black race car drivers in the U.S.
I believe you when you say that Overtime will be the biggest sports network in the world. I’m 18 years old and I don’t have any friends who ever turn on a TV. You have the perfect model to catch the attention of young sports fans.
I am planning on racing late model race cars across NC and VA this summer. It should be interesting because the first track that I race at on July 18th has a 25 ft. confederate flag on the drive up to the track.
It would be great to have you along for the ride as I work my way up from the minor leagues of racing to NASCAR or INDYCAR.
Overtime is a new age sports media company that has always been ahead of the trends when it comes to sports and sports culture. Mr. Porter saw an opportunity to partner with one of the few individuals in this sport who can help continue Wallace’s trend of making a change about the racial inequality in this sport.
Within 36 hours we had a preliminary deal worked out and we started filming a docu-series a week later. They covered my first race where I won the pole position and finished in the top 5. They loved the experience so much that we were able to work out a deal for them to partner with me for eight more races this year all while producing a docu-series set to premiere early next year.
We went on to end the season with 2 wins, 3 poles, and 6 top 5 finishes. I learned so much about business this year and I had one of the most successful seasons of my career. I am so thankful for visionary leaders like Dan Porter and everyone else who helped me in any way that you could.
Overcoming Challenges As The World Turns
Swank was just finishing his first semester at Georgia when the pandemic hit. His daily life was affected as he switched to remote learning and his racing ambitions took a temporary hit.
Despite the challenges, Swank kept it moving and he continues to pursue his degree and his rise in the sport.
“It’s hard missing what the college experience is supposed to be,” Swank recalls, his voice drifting into a reflective, melancholy tone…” and especially some of the friendships I was able to make before the pandemic. I missed that connection with people.”
I personally have been a fan of Hayden, while following him for about a year myself. During my interview, I found out that both of us are huge Jimmie Johnson fans.
“Watching Jimmie Johnson on Sundays was a huge highlight for me,” Swank admits. “He’s my favorite driver.”
The Winning Blue Print
Johnson is one of the greatest drivers ever winning 7 Series Cup Championships, tying him with two other greats — King Richard Petty and the late great Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The fact that Johnson’s legendary career serves as a blueprint for Swank’s goals tells me everything I need to know about this kid’s desire to be great.
Wouldn’t it be something to see a jump in Black participation like the one that took place in golf after Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters in dominating fashion?
That’s Swank’s hope one day.
Rev Racing, @NASCARDiversity Announce 2018 Youth Driver Line-Up https://t.co/zpStLEQksr Drivers will compete for Rev Racing in Bojangles' Summer ShootOut @CLTMotorSpdwy – @KayleeBryson @SwankMotorSport @IsabellaRobusto @Nicksanchez080 #NASCARD4D pic.twitter.com/hmibjIARmo
— Rev Racing (@RevRacin) June 1, 2018
In 2018 Swank was one of four drivers selected to represent NASCAR at the Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
I asked him what kind of rush did he get in that humongous edifice?
Swank responded, that it was “actually kind of intimidating.”
And he let me know he “didn’t even race on the big track.”
Moving forward, generating partnerships and sponsorships remains the biggest obstacle, especially for a new driver in a sport where most drivers don’t look like him. Swank is hopeful that this series on Overtime will lead to more opportunities for him and Swank Motorsports.
“This part of of the business is the absolute toughest from what I’ve seen thus far,” Swank said, referring to the constant grind to generate cash.
Changing The Game
Wallace and Wendell Scott are the only full-time Black drivers ever on the circuit.
Who can forget Scott winning a race in 1963 and then being denied the trophy, check and his moment of glory? They declared Buck Baker the winner even though Scott beat him by two laps.
Scott protested the cheat, NASCAR called it a scoring error and handed him a check barely enough to cover his debts and enough gas to haul his race car back to his Danville, VA garage.
The sport wasn’t ready to see a Black driver receive the traditional kiss from the event’s beauty queen at Victory Lane. Those are the moments NASCAR hopes to rewrite with talent like Hayden Swank ready to make a mark of historic proportions.
With brothers like Michael Jordan and former NBA player Brad Daugherty owning racing teams, and new Diversity divisions in NASCAR led by capable Black people like Brandon Thompson, there are more Black and brown faces at every level of the racing game.
NEWS: NASCAR appoints Brandon Thompson to Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 16, 2020
“My ultimate goal is to bring more attention to NASCAR and Blacks driving and to get to the level where I’m in the starting group on Sundays on Fox, competing for titles,” Swank tells The Shadow League. “Where the Big Boys reside.”