White’s Shadow Reached The Racing World

By Pete Schatz
Updated: December 30, 2004

Reggie White
Reggie White

PHILADELPHIA — The impact of Reggie White’s death reaches beyond the communities where he played football.

When White, 43, died Sunday at a hospital in Huntersville, N.C., it also left a void that will be difficult for NASCAR to fill.

While with the Eagles during the early portion of his NFL career, White became all too familiar to Joe Gibbs, then in his first stint as coach of the Washington Redskins.

After Gibbs left football, he established his highly successful stock-car operation, Joe Gibbs Racing. In recent years, when NASCAR looked to bring more members of minority groups into the sport, Gibbs turned to White to lead the way.

He knew the ordained minister could deliver his message with the same spirit and determination he had used to terrorize Gibbs’ quarterbacks.

The former rivals came together in 2003 to form a diversity program at racing’s grassroots level, which began to bear fruit last season. Chris Bristol, an African American, and Aric Almirola, a Hispanic, each piloted race cars fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series.

Bristol had one victory and finished fourth in the point standings at Caraway Speedway in Ashboro, N.C., while Almirola won three times and placed 11th in points at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C.

J.D. Gibbs, son of the Redskins coach and the president of Joe Gibbs Racing, talked about White’s contributions through a statement released by the team.

“He was much more than a great football player,” the younger Gibbs said. “He excelled as a husband and father, and he honored the Lord with his life. It was a true pleasure to collaborate with him on the Joe Gibbs Racing Diversity Program.

“I know that my father and I, as well as all the employees at JGR, were looking forward to a long relationship with Reggie through this program. All of us will ensure that his vision to cultivate a diversity program within NASCAR will continue.”

NASCAR also issued a statement commending White for his work in helping to diversify the sport, and for providing opportunities to drivers such as Bristol and Almirola.