Steve Harvey's bid to start a NASCAR team crashed and burned ... and at least one racing exec thinks it's because stock car racing honchos are racists.
Terrance Cox, the CEO of Diversity Motorsports, paints NASCAR as a stereotypical good ole boy network -- and says the league has shot down his numerous attempts to join its elite ranks.
According to a lawsuit, NASCAR even rejected a bid from Harvey last year. Cox says the comedian wanted to work with him to start a new racing team called "Steve Harvey Races 4 Education." Cox was down, but says NASCAR told Harvey it would never approve a team associated with Diversity Motorsports.
In the suit, Cox points out all 48 drivers in the league's top tier, Sprint Cup, are white ... and only one is African-American in its 2nd tier, Xfinity Series.
Here's the kicker ... Cox is suing NASCAR and nearly ALL of its racing teams for $500 million!
Ironically, one of the teams he's suing is JTG Daugherty -- which is 10% owned by Brad Daugherty ... the African-American former NBA star.
A rep for NASCAR is adamantly denying the allegations ... telling TMZ Sports the company "embraces all individuals interested and involved in our sport, whether as partners, fans, competitors or employees, and there is no merit to this lawsuit."
"Diversity both on and off the track continues to be a top priority for NASCAR and its stakeholders. We stand behind our actions, and will not let a publicity-seeking legal action deter us from our mission."
NASCAR also vows to sue Cox for defamation.