Sam Belnavis

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Sam Belnavis
Born 1940 (age 76–77)
Nationality American
Occupation Roush Fenway Racing Driver Diversity head

Sam Belnavis (born 1940) is an African American executive in automobile racing. He is one of the few minority persons to have owned a NASCAR racing team. He is currently the head of Roush Fenway Racing's driver diversity program, and handles other marketing initiatives for that company.[1]

Education and military service[edit]

As a child, Belnavis attended Our Lady of Victory, an all-black parochial school in Brooklyn, New York. He then attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, with primarily white students, a very different experience.[2]

Belnavis attended Manhattan College in New York, graduating with a degree in accounting in 1961,[3] and got a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan.[4] He was in Air Force ROTC in Manhattan College,[2] and served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot in the 105th Tactical Fighter Wing, located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.[5]


After leaving the Air Force, he took a management position at Sears, in 1968.[4] From there, he became a director of sports marketing for Miller Brewing. In 1981, while in that job, he signed Bobby Allison to a sponsorship contract.[5] After working at Miller, Belnavis was hired by DiGard Racing; part of his duties were to push a program to diversify DiGard Racing with an African-American driver.[6]

After DiGard, Belnavis took a position as senior vice-president of sports and entertainment with Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the world's largest advertising firms. In 1991 he relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he founded his own advertising and marketing agency, Belnavis & Associates.[4][5]

In 2003, Belnavis became NASCAR's first full-time minority owner[2] when he fielded BelCar Motorsports' #54 U.S. National Guard Ford Motor Company entry driven by Todd Bodine.[7] In 2004, the team, at the time NASCAR's only minority-owned team, closed when the National Guard elected to sponsor a Roush Racing vehicle instead.[8]

He continues to serves as a team in lower-level NASCAR leagues through the Drive for Diversity program, fielding entries for Morty Buckes, Brianne Conrath, and Jesus Hernandez in the past.


Belnavis and his wife Christine have three daughters and his six grandchildren.[4]


  1. ^ "Roush Racing Sales Executive Team". Roush Fenway Racing. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "African-American History Month event features first black NASCAR owner". U.S. Army. Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. Retrieved January 2, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Jasper Jottings 2003-07-13". Retrieved October 20, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Samuel Belnavis", bio, Speedway Children's Charities, retrieved January 2, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Lemasters Jr., Ron (February 16, 2005). "Belnavis, Ribbs leaving their mark on landscape". Retrieved January 1, 2008. 
  6. ^ "DiGard Racing Company History", retrieved January 2, 2008.
  7. ^ "Sam Belnavis and Travis Carter Join Forces For 2003", Ford Motor Company, press release, retrieved January 2, 2008.
  8. ^ "Minority-owned NASCAR team closes". USA Today. December 18, 2003. Retrieved January 1, 2008. 

External links[edit]