More times than not, people can’t help but say whatever is on their mind.
From President Donald Trump to NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, it’s been a whirlwind of a week in the stock car racing realm. For better or for worse — however you want to look at it is up to you — NASCAR made national headlines this week. Their name came across dozens of mainstream publications because of comments made by these two individuals, along with others.
As NASCAR continues to do a fantastic job at branding itself around a diversity campaign, statements like the ones made this past weekend bring all those efforts to a crashing halt. Ultimately, it is up to the sanctioning body to promote itself as if it’s 2017, rather than pretending it’s the early days of NASCAR in 1957.
Filtering comments are a must, especially in a time when the two main owners who spoke out Sunday — Petty and Richard Childress — are facing uncertain futures with sponsorship woes simultaneously hitting both teams. OK, maybe they’ll land a stereotypical sponsor for sticking up for Trump (like Petty already did after announcing last week the addition of Grunt Style, featuring self-proclaimed “patriotic apparel”). But they won’t do well when it comes to landing major Fortune 500 corporations, many of which are furious with the president as of late.
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Q: After several team owners had controversial comments this weekend, why does NASCAR need to be more inclusive? – Mitchell R., Charlotte
A: Being inclusive and preaching this practice is something NASCAR has been pushing for several years. Until this past weekend, it was doing quite well, helping drivers and crew members break into its ranks by using marketing campaigns to prove NASCAR isn’t a stereotypical southern sport anymore.
NASCAR isn’t what it used to be. Marketing rules the sport in 2017, whether people like it or not.
Sure, the talent of drivers remains a key factor in getting a ride. But let’s face it, that isn’t the deciding factor anymore. Instead, it’s how much money one team can bring to the table.
That’s important when considering where the sport goes from here, no matter how you feel about the anthem controversy. Here’s the problem: This past weekend, you had two legendary owners from the south speak against the First Amendment right of peaceful protesting. However, they don’t speak for the majority of people involved in the sport, and their comments should not be a reflection on NASCAR as a whole.
The comments made by the two owners are not only going against a constitutional right, but they automatically showed a major divide in NASCAR’s political spectrum.
On one hand, you have a young, diverse group of fans increasingly interested in the sport. On the other, you have an elder, stereotypical fan base who still bring Confederate flags to the racetrack. It’s quite the conundrum.
Owners who say they’ll fire someone for kneeling during the national anthem, like Petty loudly proclaimed, or will force someone “to take a Greyhound back to Charlotte,” according to Childress, are absolutely absurd. The First Amendment is in place for a reason, and that is to protect the opinions of American civilians. Of course, most businesses do have conduct standards for employees, including things they can and can’t say or do on the job.
Want to protest during the national anthem in support of equality? Fine. Let people assume what they want, but you need to do what you feel is right in your heart. It’s the same situation when it comes to those proudly raising a flag that still causes trauma for African Americans who decide to attend a NASCAR race.
Does it make sense to do these things? Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know, because I personally wouldn’t do either of them.
But sports have always been political. Just look at the Olympics — it’s a time for nationalism and pure pride.
NASCAR prides itself on being a purely American sport. That’s fine and dandy, but it all goes away when a team owner decides to stand against a peaceful protest (that, by the way, hasn’t happened yet at a NASCAR race) for equality, something still lacking in their own sport.
The comments by Petty are absolutely dumbfounding, especially considering his team, led by major owner Andrew Murstein, just lost a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with Smithfield Foods, who is heading to Stewart-Haas Racing.
For the second time in three weeks, Petty just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. The No. 43 car is a ride Darrell Wallace Jr. would love to have but sponsors might have been scared away in a heartbeat. He fully disregarded counter-comments made by Murstein, the co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports.
Now, if a sponsor comes along to partner with Wallace, they might opt to go to another team, one that is willing to be inclusive and show pride in being an organization that is inclusive and, more importantly, loves equality.
We’re all equal, each and every one of us. If two NASCAR owners can’t realize that, it is time for the rest of the sport to speak against them. It’s time to showcase that being inclusive, just like NASCAR wants to be, is vital in a battle for survival.
Q: What does Tyler Reddick’s win mean as he prepares to move to JR Motorsports? – Mike L., Miami
A: This is a massive victory for not only Reddick but Chip Ganassi Racing’s XFINITY Series program as a whole. For Reddick to drive smoothly and methodically through the top five Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, it proved why Brad Keselowski Racing, now Ganassi and next, Dale Earnhardt Jr. have invested in him.
Reddick was known to be quite the aggressive driver in the Camping World Truck Series. His consistency spoke for itself, having an average finish of 6.3 in 2015, his first full-time season.
The transition to the XFINITY Series, however, had been difficult. The additional horsepower and steeper competition proved to be a challenge, albeit one Reddick expected. But to tame his peers and come out on top in only his 15th start is quite the power move, mere days after announcing he’ll be full-time with JR Motorsports in 2018.
For Reddick, this win means the world to him. The youngster now has the confidence he can get the job done like the Truck Series. The only race up until this past weekend he showed even the slightest signs of XFINITY brilliance came in June at Iowa Speedway, where he finished third.
In what has been a very similar season to his CGR counterpart Brennan Poole’s first part-time XFINITY Series shot, Reddick just proved he has what it takes to not only run up front, but to dominate a race. In Poole’s first year, he earned a pair of top 10s. Reddick had a top five and a pair of 10th-place finishes on his resume up until Kentucky.
As Reddick moves forward, he needs to use this win as a marketing boost. He will now begin building a brand as he looks to eventually make his way to NASCAR’s premier division, a step he discussed in recent weeks could eventually happen if the right pieces fall into place.
About the author
Joseph started with Fronstretch in Aug. 2014 and worked his way up to become an editor in less than a year. A native of Whitestone, New York, Joseph writes for NASCAR Pole Position magazine as a weekly contributor, along with being a former intern at Newsday and the Times Beacon Record Newspapers, each on Long Island. With a focus on NASCAR, he runs our social media pages and writes the NASCAR Mailbox column, along with other features for the site.
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