Meet the new Daytona 500 race director: NASCAR’s Jusan Hamilton is ready for his turn in the big chair

Jusan Hamilton
By Jeff Gluck Feb 16, 2022 12
Formula One’s season finale in December was marred by an international controversy that has overshadowed the series for its entire offseason.

That’s because of the way F1 race director Michael Masi officiated the ending of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, implementing an unusual (if not outright incorrect) interpretation of the rules and infuriating millions of fans around the globe.

“I might have been one of them,” a man named Jusan Hamilton said.

That’s worth mentioning because Hamilton is no random race fan. The 31-year-old is one of two NASCAR Cup Series race directors who alternate officiating duties; on Sunday, Hamilton will call his first Daytona 500.

In doing so, Hamilton will likely be the youngest person to be race director for a Daytona 500 and is certainly the first Black man to do so — notable for a sport that has struggled with diversity over the decades.

Hamilton (no relation to Lewis Hamilton, the driver who was at the wrong end of Masi’s actions) is quick to note he can’t judge Masi because he hasn’t been in that role and doesn’t know all the specifics of F1’s procedures. But from his perspective in the NASCAR tower, Hamilton said, “the last thing I want to do is impact competition and be involved in the outcome of a race.”

Aside from stories like these, the soft-spoken Hamilton would prefer you not know he’s in race control at all. Like any referee, no one says anything about a well-officiated game; it’s missed calls that result in scrutiny and attention.

As the man responsible for deciding when and if a caution flag is displayed, Hamilton is certainly aware of the criticism he receives when fans take exception to his decisions.