Shawne Merriman Buys NASCAR Team … Wants Black Kids To Start Racing

Ex-NFL star Shawne Merriman says he's taking on a new challenge as the owner of a NASCAR racing team … telling us he LOVES the sport and wants to inspire black kids to love it too.

TMZ Sports spoke with Merriman who revealed he's part-owner of a NASCAR K&N team … a regional series used to develop drivers. It's like the minor leagues … a stepping-stone to get to the majors.

Why NASCAR? SM told us he's a HUGE racing fan, having caught the bug at a race some years ago … and said he wants to do something to promote his passion to black youth.

"We thought NASCAR would be a huge deal for us, kinda going into a different demographic. There's not a whole lot of minorities looking to be into NASCAR."

Merriman says he thinks once black kids are introduced to the vroom-vroom life — you might see more of them get involved with NASCAR … maybe even choose that sport over the NFL or the NBA.

"It's just that exciting!" Watch TMZ video

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