Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has agreed to help NASCAR make stock-car racing more appealing to minorities.

Johnson, 44, will serve as co-chairman of a NASCAR committee that will try to get more blacks, Hispanics and women to participate in the sport. Johnson said he won't be paid for the work.

"We hope that we can reach out to minorities across this country and introduce a wonderful sport that is already doing very well," he said during a televised news conference from a NASCAR facility in Concord, N.C.

NASCAR, which runs the top stock-car racing circuits, recently established a "Drive for Diversity" program to increase the number of minority drivers, crew members and fans.

"We are committed to making our sport look more like America, on and off the track," George Pyne, NASCAR's chief operating officer, said at the news conference.

Currently, there are no full-time black, Hispanic or female drivers in the Nextel Cup and Busch series, NASCAR's top stock-car racing circuits. Bill Lester, who is black, drives in the Craftsman Truck Series.

In a news release about Johnson's hiring, NASCAR said a 2002 poll showed that about a quarter of NASCAR's fans are "people of color" and that the number of black fans has increased 18 percent since 1995.

Johnson said he became a NASCAR fan while growing up in Lansing, Mich.

"As a child, I spent countless hours attending racing events with my father, and my strong interest in motor sports is still connected to those fond memories," he said.

-- From News Services