NASCAR seems to keep away from protests over George Floyd

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — NASCAR has a checkered racial historical past.

From an affinity for Confederate flags among the many fan base to a driver dropping his job simply this season for casually uttering a racial slur, the great ol’ boys have by no means been recognized for variety.

Maybe it’s not stunning this principally white sport appeared hesitant to hitch the nationwide outrage over the death of George Floyd whereas in police custody — a placing distinction to its rush to be the primary main sport to return in the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking towards NASCAR’s weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which would be the fourth monitor to stage races with out followers, vans driver Matt Crafton was requested concerning the protests in all 50 states and world wide demanding an finish to police brutality in opposition to African Americans.

“I just try to stay off social media,” mentioned Crafton, clearly uncomfortable with the topic. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot to talk about. I don’t try to get involved in a lot. That’s a terrible thing that happened to the gentleman in Minneapolis. But there’s a lot of things going on that I’d rather not talk about.”

Bubba Wallace, the one African American within the top-level Cup collection, expressed frustration that so many drivers had been reluctant to talk out.

“A few drivers — a very few — have given their opinion on the day’s matter and I appreciate that,” Wallace mentioned on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast. “But the silence from the top drivers in our sport is beyond frustrating. … Our sport has always had somewhat of a racist label to it. NASCAR — everybody thinks redneck, Confederate flag, racists — and I hate it. I hate that because I know NASCAR is so much more.”

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Wallace mentioned he inspired different drivers to take up the trigger, together with rising star Chase Elliott, who won at Charlotte on May 29 and can begin from the pole in Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 — basically a house race for the Georgia native.

“I said do you all not care about what’s going on in the world?” Wallace mentioned. “That’s not the right way to go about it. Our voices carry so much more weight than Joe Schmo from down the street. I mentioned we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to step up for everybody to say what they feel.”

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, in his closing season as a full-time driver, reached out to Wallace to ask what he might do.

“That’s a big question I have for myself right now,” mentioned Johnson, who will likely be honored on what could possibly be his closing race in Atlanta by having a grandstand named after him. “When you sit down and listen, you realize there’s a lot of injustices taking place across a broad spectrum. As a representative of our sport and just a citizen, it’s really time to listen. I look forward to the journey that takes me on and the ways I can be active.”

Even although African Americans are uncommon in NASCAR, Johnson mentioned he was shocked at what Wallace has gone by way of to achieve the highest echelon.

“I had no idea the challenges he was faced with,” Johnson conceded. “I want to have a voice. I want to stand up to injustices. I’m trying to find that voice. Part of that journey is educating myself. I’m very deep into that.”

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Initially set to host the Cup collection on March 15, Atlanta turned the primary race to be postponed due to the pandemic that has now claimed greater than 100,000 American lives.

Johnson has received 5 instances on the 1.54-mile trioval recognized for its slippery, worn-out floor that places a premium on tire put on and getting probably the most out of lengthy runs. Mired in a winless streak that has now stretched for greater than three years, he hopes to lastly break by way of at one in every of his favourite tracks.

Even if he doesn’t win, it figures to be a memorable weekend. The Winners Grandstand will likely be renamed the Johnson Grandstand, becoming a member of sections named in honor of fellow seven-time Cup champions Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.

“Granted, there won’t be fans to celebrate with,” Johnson mentioned. “But it’s still an emotional and special moment to go back to tracks for what could be the final time.”

Johnson acknowledged that taking a stand in opposition to racism and police brutality might spark a backlash from some NASCAR followers.

“Obviously, this a very divisive topic,” he mentioned. “But you’ve got to follow your heart and positions that you believe in. It’s hard to live your life worrying about other people. You’ve got to let the passion in your life shine through. The things you believe in, you need to follow that.

“Ultimately, I feel a need to have a voice in this. I’m still trying to find that voice, but I’m being pulled this way more than I have other times. There’s just something inside of me that makes me feel like I need to do it.”

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Source: AP News

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