NASCAR PR pioneer Alexis Leras passes away at 80


Alexandria (“Alexis”) Demas Leras, 80, the first and only female Director of Public Relations for NASCAR, died Monday, March 1, 2021, succumbing to cancer after a year-long battle. According to her obituary, she passed away at her home in Massachusetts. 

NASCAR released a statement on Friday that said, “Alexis Leras was a true pioneer in the NASCAR industry. Her work and advocacy while at NASCAR helped blaze an important trail for women in our sport. We are saddened by her passing and will miss Alexis dearly.”

In the mid 1970s, Bill France Jr. made Leras the first woman to hold a senior position in the sport. During her tenure, she helped facilitate driver visits to the White House, with Jimmy Carter being the first to issue an invitation. She also orchestrated the move of the NASCAR Awards banquet from Daytona Beach to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. This 1998 story about the banquet's history fails to mention Leras' contributions, but does state, "One of the major off-track moves NASCAR Winston Cup racing accomplished was in moving its awards ceremony and banquet after the 1982 season to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City." 

Upon leaving the NASCAR organization in the early 1980s, Leras joined the recently formed Melling Racing as Public Relations Director and in 1984, organized the fan club and voting drive that propelled Melling's driver, Bill Elliott, to Most Popular Driver. Most fans know he went on to hold that honor 16 times in his career, but I doubt many know the role that Leras played. I know I didn't. 

As a NASCAR fan since 1997-98, I'm ashamed that I did not know who she was and what she meant to the sport I love. I did not realize her efforts helped make it possible for Skirts and Scuffs staff to cover races from the pits. I've read several books on NASCAR history, and either I ignorantly overlooked mentions of her, or they weren't there. Considering the dearth of information about her available online, it would not surprise me if it were the latter. 

The Skirts and Scuffs team extends our sympathies to the Leras family, along with our appreciation for her groundbreaking work on behalf of women in NASCAR. 

NASCAR PR pioneer Alexis Leras passes away at 80 NASCAR PR pioneer Alexis Leras passes away at 80 Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, March 07, 2021 Rating: 5