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NASCAR and #BlackLivesMatter, 1 Year Later: Part 1

“I still contend that our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay.”

Martin Luther King Jr., 1968

During June 2020, nothing happened and everything happened all at once.

On June 1 the U.S. death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed the lives of 345,000 Americans by the end of the year, was at 105,000.

The day also marked a week since the murder of George Floyd by the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Three days earlier, on May 29, a peaceful protest turned violent at CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

On the evening of June 1, the NASCAR Xfinity Series raced at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Just as pre-race ceremonies commenced, peaceful protestors marching at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., against police brutality and racism were tear-gassed and dispersed by law enforcement.

It was instantly the split-screen moment in a summer filled with many we were forced to watch from home, where we’d been stuck since the middle of March. We were riveted by what we saw, in part because there was nothing else to watch. We’d gone a month-and-a-half with no sports to distract us from the day-to-day horror of an invisible virus.

Except for NASCAR, that is.

That Xfinity race at Bristol, won in dramatic fashion by Noah Gragson, was the ninth held after the sport returned from its pandemic shutdown on May 17 at Darlington Raceway.

As the country seemed to fall apart in late May, NASCAR felt isolated from the headlines. Aside from the empty grandstands, the face masks on pit road and TV broadcasters commentating remotely, it was business as usual.

That started to change on June 1.

While the tear gas cleared in Washington, D.C. and the Xfinity Series raced in Tennessee, Bubba Wallace and Ty Dillon took to Instagram.

In a nearly 30-minute conversation initiated by Dillon, the two drivers discussed race, Wallace’s personal encounters with law enforcement and racism he’d experienced during his racing career.

Similar conversations played out over the next few days, as Wallace appeared on the Dale Jr. Download and also shared an emotional moment with Fox Sports analyst Ricky Craven.

By June 7, a year ago today, NASCAR could no longer ignore the other pandemic sweeping the country.

Just before the start of the Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, President Steve Phelps addressed the track’s empty grandstands, the drivers sitting in their cars on the frontstretch and a national TV audience.

“Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard,” Phelps said. “The Black community and all people of color have suffered in our country and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better.

“The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice. We ask our drivers, our competitors and all our fans to join us in this mission.”

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To emphasize the message, the sanctioning body released a video, orchestrated by Jimmie Johnson, featuring Wallace, Ryan Blaney and many other NASCAR drivers addressing the moment.

“We’re not strangers to moving fast,” the video began. “And we know how life can have that same quality. But now … is the time to slow down and reflect. The events of recent weeks highlighted the work we still need to do as a nation to condemn racial inequality and racism.”

When the month began, no one likely imagined circumstances where Johnson, NASCAR’s seven-time champion, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., its most popular driver for almost two decades, would say the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on a national platform.

But they did.

Wallace followed, noting the deaths of “Ahmaud Arbery and countless others in the Black community are heartbreaking … and can no longer be ignored.

“The process begins with us listening and learning because understanding the problem is the first step in fixing it. We are committed to listening with empathy and with an open heart to better educate ourselves. We will use this education to advocate for change in our nation, our communities and most importantly in our own homes. Even after the headlines go away.

“All of our voices, they make a difference. No matter how big or how small, it is all of our responsibility to no longer be silent … We’ve a long road ahead of us. But let’s commit to make the journey together.

“Our differences should not divide us. It is our love for all mankind that will unite us as we work together to make real change.”

The next day, Wallace appeared on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.

Lemon asked Wallace what NASCAR’s next steps should be and mentioned the Confederate flag, the symbol long associated with “Southern heritage,” White supremacy and the image of it flying at NASCAR tracks all across the country.

“My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags,” Wallace said. “There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about … an object they have seen flying.

“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here.”

The email announcing the Confederate flag’s banishment from any and all NASCAR facilities landed at 4:46 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 10.

The declaration, officially ending the sport’s 71-year run of tolerating the symbol, was simply titled “NASCAR Statement.”

The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” it said. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”

NASCAR’s historic day wasn’t over.

Hours later, the Cup Series held its first night race at Martinsville Speedway, the oldest active track on the circuit. Located in southern Virginia, it’s only 30 miles from Danville, the home of NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, the only Black driver to ever win a Cup race.

It was there that Wallace, driver of Richard Petty’s iconic No. 43, piloted a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme. With the phrase “Compassion, Love, Understanding” on the hood, Wallace drove to an 11th-place finish.

All of that occurred 12 months ago this week.

Whether you experienced it in a blur, slow motion or as a pandemic fever dream, it did happen.

It was a week that changed NASCAR, both in and outside its bubble, potentially planting seeds that could revitalize a sport which, for a decade, seemed to be in free fall.

This column is the first in a five-part series that looks back at the events of June 2020 and examines their impact on the sport a year later.

Frontstretch will bring you the stories of four Black NASCAR fans who came to the sport as a result of these historic events and what their experience has been in the ensuing 12 months. It will conclude on Friday, June 11 with a look at NASCAR’s efforts to build on the #BlackLivesMatter foundation laid in 2020.

Part two can be read here

Part three can be read here

Part four can be read here

Part five can be read here

and check out and subscribe his show “Dropping The Hammer with Daniel McFadin” on YouTube and in podcast form.

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David Russell Edwards

Change can be uncomfortable. However looking back over the past year, the changes nascar has made dont seem to have had a negative impact.
The pandemic is of course a different subject. The tragedies suffered by individuals and families will take years to be over come, if they ever can be.

Get Real

Wallace and Hamlin are racist pigs

Steven

After the FBI investigation it was determined that the offensive item was a garage pull down rope. Yet Wallace insisted it was a noose. This left me with the impression that Wallace had been influenced by a racist, violent and corrupt BLM. organization looking to exploit NASCAR..

Bill B

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

Mike

MLK was a communist, a plagiarist, and a known womanizer.

BLM is a violent marxist anti-American domestic terrorist group =tho their leadership lives in damn fine homes.

Bubba W is an idiot.

Jo

The greatest terrorist threat to the United States is domestic right-wing militia groups who are composed of people who are outright racists or members of the Q-Anon cult.

So, are you a simple racist or a delusional idiot?

Get Real

You’re a racist LUNITIC LEFT WING LIBERAL LOSER

Jo

Seems to me YOU are part of the group that lost. LMBO!

Mike

The greatest terrorist threat to the United States are leftist / marxist “anti-fascists” who employ fascist tactics, techniques, and procedures who themselves are outright racists or members of blm/antifa/american party of labor/communist party usa/workers word party/black rose/shall i continue? None of whom believe in individual liberty, personal property, or capital.

And, since you can’t argue by fact you revert to the tried and true lefty method of personal insults. Are you a simple neophyte lefty or a delusional idiot?

Jo

And where are YOUR facts? The insurrectionist attack on the Capitol was by right-wing militia groups. And that, old man, is FACT!

These groups pretend to be in favor of personal liberty and capitalism, but in fact, they fear that they will lose what LITTLE they have if others are allowed to have their own “individual liberty, personal property and capital.” These “proud white boys” (aka Poor White Trash) simply don’t want to be the lowest rung of society, so they use skin color to try to keep another group beneath them.

And now I sit back and wait for more of YOUR personal insults, since you have no facts.

Steve G.

… said the old dried up leftist loud mouth. Your side would abolish racing so fast, your emotionally unstable brain couldn’t comprehend. Pathetic.

Mike

What insurrection? What attack? All I saw was patriots exercising their right to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s in the 1st Amendment in case you’re wondering.

As for the rest –I agree with Steve G. that the old trotskyism bs is tiring. And you are a racist whether you think so or not.

“The consolidation of the states into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it.” Robert E. Lee

…and lil ol’ Jo proves it, General Lee.

Jo

Mike, your side lost the Civil War, you lost the election, your race driver always loses, your wife ran off with another man, an “armed attack on the Capitol with the purpose of overturning an election” is NOT “peaceful assembly.” You’re a loser on all counts.

Jo

Steve G., the reason NASCAR races feature so many commercials for ED remedies is because of old white guys like you who can’t get it up anymore! It’s also the reason you carry a gun, since your natural appendage is shriveled proof that you are no longer a man.

Bob

If they were “right-wing militia groups”, why did liberal Hollyweird half wits post their bail?

Jo

Bob, which “liberal Hollyweird half wits” would those be? More fantasies and lies!

Bill B

All I’ll say is that you are a mirror image of the people you hate. You are as petty and mean spirited as anyone else. You hate the people that have views different from yours and lump them all together as if there is no room for discussion. You do not occupy the high ground and you are not virtuous.
Nor am I. The only difference is, I will admit it. Your ego will not allow you to do the same.

Jo

Bill B, when did I ever say I was “virtuous”? I certainly am as mean-spirited as anyone else. But I do have the guts to stand mostly alone here in this group and call out the BS the other old-time NASCAR fans spew, even when it means I get all the abuse from the “good ol’ boys” standing together against me.

You are content to say that “people are just people” and “all lives matter,” but that doesn’t begin to address the real issue of institutional racism in this country. I applaud NASCAR for taking the minimal steps it has to address their own past failures in that regard.

Bill B

I’m not sure whether standing alone against the crowd makes you brave or a fool, but it’s a free country and if that gets you off then so be it.
But by saying ” I do have the guts to stand mostly alone here in this group and call out the BS the other old-time NASCAR fans spew, even when it means I get all the abuse from the “good ol’ boys” standing together against me.” it sounds like you do think there is some virtue in that endeavor. Like you are trying to teach the natives something. Also keep in mind that BS is being slung by all.

Virtue = behavior showing high moral standards.

Dick

Right wing terrorism when billions of $$$ in damage from left terrorist groups destroy cities. Look in the mirror and apply yourself. Keep looking in the mirror and seeing a loser wanting shit for free your s socialist loser. St George square on the anniversary of kicking the fentanyl habit. you and your thugs start shouting up the place. Nobody’s hunting you down like lachina claims. Kill each other off one by one the world is a better place. Conservatives can’t break your thug thinking and behavior. Leave the country is an option soy boy. Your boy Bubba couldn’t win a race if he was the only car. “There’s a noose in my garage” what a moron.

Donald N. Mei

Lets compare BLM inspired riots and firebombings to Q-Anon, shall we?

Steve G.

Mike, thank you for presenting facts. Nothing more, nothing less. The truth is an aggravating pest to leftist.

Jo

There were no “facts” in Mike’s rant. I guess your 5th grade education never covered the difference between “fact” and “opinion,” or between “reality” and “fantasy,” or between “truth” and “lie.” All you have are opinions, fantasies and lies.

And you are the ones who were so aggravated by this column that you felt compelled to comment to show off your blatant racism and ignorance.

Mike

Damn I’ll bet you’re fun at parties…

Congrats to FS editors for making lunatics like Mao Tse Jo expose herself. Might ought to stick with stock car racin’ stories rather than black black blackety black type stuff best left to npr, cnn, nbc, abc, cbs, vox, and jo jo.

Jo

Hey, how does it feel knowing that public opinion of BLM has dipped into the net negatives, that LGBT support among youth has dropped from 63% to 45% in less than 3 years, that Trump’s support has grown since Jan 6th according to Civiqs, that you will never get HB1 passed nor will you get the filibuster removed, and that left-wing identifying groups have the lowest birthrates out of any political demographic, the highest rates of mental illness, are rated less attractive than right-wingers, have dropping IQ rates, and are being bred out of existence?

Jimbo

The only one I see aggravated here is you, Jo. You’re the one running from comment to comment pathetically raging at everyone who replies. Is that because Manchin just announced that he has zero intention of voting for your garbage “voters rights” bill so now you need to let loose in some unmoderated comments sections to calm down?

You’re the most pathetic person here by a mile.

Get Real

Wallace is a racist trouble maker

JER

Over the last several weeks I have noticed commentor “Jo” seems to enjoy picking fights about political idealogy. I encourage “Jo” to continue expressing and promoting (his or her) views, on the appropriate platforms. However “The Frontstretch’s” forum is about racing. To bring in other subjects whether it be politics, or how to make an apple pie just corrupts the forum.

Jo

Re-read the comments in order, Jer. “Mike” was the one who brought his brand of politics into the discussion.

Mike

The story in and of itself is political, hence, all comments are political. “His brand of politics”? Now you’ve shown yourself as a sexist in addition to a commie quack.

Congrats on the “is not! is too!”. Proves you have at least a grade school education.

Jo

Did I somehow offend you, Mike, by using the male pronoun “his”? If you are female, trans, or non-binary, I do apologize.

janice

it’s odd under “comments” says 13 comments.

i agree with bill b!

janice

now all the comments show

DoninAjax

Sometimes you have to press Refresh (F5) to get the latest version of the article.

John

I’m guessing that those expressing the negative have no black friends and likely never will. I have a couple and they are no different than any of my white friends. BLM does not appear to be as interested in social justice as it is raising revenue for the leaders of the organization, if you can believe anything that you read anywhere anymore. In the month following the George Floyd death, there was good dialog and a renewed understanding of the type of continued racial bias that exists still in our country even by the most ‘noble’ of white people. I took that as a call to personal action to try to improve on how I treated others. However the radicals on both sides used this as an opportunity to cloud the basic issue to meet their political ends. Both have set back the perception of equality by 2 decades.
One thing this taught me…a-holes come in all colors..

Bill B

You win…. BEST COMMENT OF THE DAY!!!!

dh

Great comment – the other thing that this has taught me is that while we think we’re open to having civil discussion – we’re trying to persuade people who are deep in their feels on the far right, and far left – and that’s like putting a gun to your head, pulling the trigger and assuming it won’t fire. If we keep allowing ourselves to be typist toughguys and watch the media that gets paid to spin us in circles – we’ll never get there. rambling a bit – but back to my original 2 words – great comment.

Carl D.

SMH…

David Edwards

I thought this was supposed to be a forum of opinions re racing.
Obviously that has been at least for the moment subverted by political issues which is unfortunate, but there it is.
Personally I think nascar was correct in banning the confederate flags.
As for Bubba Wallace I think he has every right to speak his views. As much as Childress did about kneeling during the anthem.
Anyone who saw a he events of Jan 6 as a bunch of patriots has a uniquely filtered view of the world.
Despite his success I doubt if there is a long line of companies fighting to throw sponsorship dollars at Larson. Hendricks can spin that however he wants.
Next year that will likely change but not now.
Anyway there are enough issues around nascar to have avoided this.

Bill B

Frontstretch knows what they are doing. Every time they venture into politics they get a chit-load of hits and comments. I don’t blame them but that first sentence should be aimed at FS, not those that comment. They reap what they sow.

Steve G.

This “Jo” piece of work always knows everything about everyone, knows all of our personal traits, knows every damn thing. It’s phenomenal! And she/it loves getting the last word in. So the low IQ is very obvious, it’s hilarious actually. She/it loves to s#1t stir for sure.

Derek

A joke article for a joke cause perpetuated for a fraudulent incident. Great job! Lol

T!

I am a female that loves this sport but:
1.Why was Wallace’s car pushed by competitors before the race, he PERSONALLY did not earn that?
2.Since when does a person get a promotion based on their skin color. (WALLACE)
3.Why is Wallace dictating the rules for NASCAR policy?
Hence, rebel flags. To me a Rebel flag is all about History not feeling sorry for yourself, but being proud of what you have come from and where you are at NOW!

Jo

When does a person get a promotion after being fired for his off-track actions? (KYLE LARSON)

As for Confederate flags, they are part of the dark history of our nation, just as swastikas are a part of the dark history of Germany. The “rebel flag” is a symbol of racism, slavery and defeat and should not be a source of pride for any American.

Why are southern redneck fans trying to dictate the rules for NASCAR policy?

Chris Almond

I like reading the Front Stretch articles. But this is one I could do without. All the name calling going back and forth and just all the BS in general. So let’s look at the article in general and it basically says NASCAR is in full favor of BLM organization and denouncing racism which is a good thing. This is their choice to do so, but there are consequences that are going to come with that. Being a business that has all sorts of customers should know better than to get into social matters because you can’t keep everyone happy. Hence just do your business. So like so many other companies NASCAR decided to jump on the band wagon. Now that we are coming out of the pandemic and tracks are allowing full capacity, ask yourself what happened at The Coca Cola 600. The hub of NASCAR racing. They can say it was a sellout but being very close to speedway I assure you it wasn’t. It would seem that the people who have footed the bill for the races for years have said they have had enough. And if so it would be a direct result form last year’s conflicts. Also NASCAR and many other companies may wan to take look into the investigation of the founders of BLM by other chapters of BLM and ask themselves how did so rich so fast.

Big lou

The confederate flag was the south’s battle flag for their independence not for slavery. The slaves needed to look no farther then there own country for selling them off. The flag is part of history as is the statues of both sides. Taking the flag away or statues does not erase history. What needs to happen as law did for burning a cross is a law to burning our American flag that I and millions or patriots fought for. Not to take a knee or a black to hold up there fist for black power. BLM is a fake group of terreroist clowns. They only care when it’s a white on black deal. They could care less of all the black on black killings not to mention the cities they burned down. White lives matter just as much as do all lives. For nascar last year to let pettys 43car have the BLM on the sides is a down right disgrace. I hope now that nascar has caved to Wallace and others maybe we’ll see a big pick up of CSA belt buckles and hats. Remember R.E.L.

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