Former Atlanta Falcons receiver Terence Mathis has found a home in NASCAR  - and that has taken a while. Just in the last month, Mathis has joined with Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 team as vice president of marketing.  After retiring from the NFL in 2002 (having played spectacularly for the Falcons from 1994 – 2001), Mathis turned his focus from football to marketing. The wide receiver did some of own marketing during his NFL career. In 2005, he tried to start a NASCAR team in conjunction with NASCAR’s then-new Drive for Diversity program. But his new team never hit the track for several reasons.

“When you’re the new guy on the block and every sponsor you go after, you know that a big team or a team that has more experience is telling them ‘he’s not experienced enough, he doesn’t know what he’s doing,’” Mathis told News/Talk WSB outside of the LVR hauler just after Daytona 500 final practice. “I’ve been sued by people that used to work with me. If think if I was never a football player and never went through the things I went through, I probably would have given up a long time ago.”

Mathis formed Victory Motorsports in 2005, but that deal fell through.

Mathis joins LVR in a good time for the small Sprint Cup Series team. Late in 2012 they announced they again would run a limited schedule, but would try to run the full races in all they ran. Scott Speed begins his 2nd year with the team and both Speed and the team start their first Daytona 500 from the 31st spot.

“It was wonderful to race in to a race like this. We have a fast car and Scott [Speed] is gonna do well.”

And despite Mathis and LVR’s short time together, Mathis, who had four 1,000-plus receiving yards seasons in the NFL, is already looking for more.

“It was synergy right away. I became the VP of marketing, with future possibilities of owning part of the team down the road.”

Mathis says the team did not feel his marketing hands on the deal that brought Dish Network on board as primary sponsor for the Daytona 500. Team officials say that the amount of races on their schedule this year depends on how much Mathis and others can sell. Mathis is a big believer in the power of marketing and thinks that the key to turning around NASCAR’s downturn is just that. But it also is about to whom NASCAR and its sponsors choose to market.

“That generation of NASCAR fans that are older is leaving the sport and there’s no bottom line to fill those seats from that generation that is leaving. But where do you get it from? You get it from your Hispanics and your African Americans.”

When asked about the progress of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program, Mathis acknowledged it, but says there can be more. The last black driver to run a Sprint Cup race was Mableton, GA’s Bill Lester in 2006 and that was the first time in 20 years. Darrell Wallace Jr. is aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing and is running for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series this year – his first full season in any of NASCAR’s top three series. More drivers of Hispanic dissent, such as Aric Almirola in the Sprint Cup Series or Nelson Piquet Jr. in the Nationwide Series, have taken roots in NASCAR. Danica Patrick and Johanna Long are the two most prominent women in NASCAR, but Mathis says there is hope for marketing to consumers of his race.

“We’ll find out in the next few weeks or so how that Drive for Diversity Program is going for African American drivers [in regards to Wallace Jr. in Trucks].  This sport will have a Tiger Woods moment.”

But Mathis’ main concern is the plight of LVR. Plate racing keeps many cars close to the lead and if Speed stays out of trouble, he could get a good finish in the Great American Race. Mathis never won a Super Bowl in the NFL, but he certainly would relish being part of a team that could pull off a great finish in NASCAR’s Super Bowl.