|Born||1940 (age 76–77)|
|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.
Education and military service
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.
Belnavis attended Manhattan College in New York, graduating with a degree in accounting in 1961, and got a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan. He was in Air Force ROTC in Manhattan College, 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.
After leaving the Air Force, he took a management position at Sears, in 1968. 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. 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.
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.
In 2003, Belnavis became NASCAR's first full-time minority owner when he fielded BelCar Motorsports' #54 U.S. National Guard Ford Motor Company entry driven by Todd Bodine. 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.
Belnavis and his wife Christine have three daughters and his six grandchildren.
- "Roush Racing Sales Executive Team". Roush Fenway Racing. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2008.
- "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.
- "Jasper Jottings 2003-07-13". jasperjottings.com. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
- "Samuel Belnavis", bio, Speedway Children's Charities, retrieved January 2, 2008.
- Lemasters Jr., Ron (February 16, 2005). "Belnavis, Ribbs leaving their mark on landscape". NASCAR.com. Retrieved January 1, 2008.
- "DiGard Racing Company History", retrieved January 2, 2008.
- "Sam Belnavis and Travis Carter Join Forces For 2003", Ford Motor Company, press release, retrieved January 2, 2008.
- "Minority-owned NASCAR team closes". USA Today. December 18, 2003. Retrieved January 1, 2008.