10 thoughts on the Confederate flag, and racing

Could NASCAR's attempt at political correctness backfire on its business end?

10 thoughts on the Confederate flag, and racing
American flag
Ferrari fans with flags
Melbourne flags and atmosphere
Risi Competizione flag girl
F1, Korean and FIA Flags
American and Canadian flags
Grid girls with the FIA Flag
#208 Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak: Sébastien Loeb takes the checkered flags
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138 passes red flags as the race is stopped
Texas Motor Speedway signage and flags
Armed forces and the American flag
A marshal with a yellow flag
Daytona flags

1. Some NASCAR fan in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway will become famous this weekend. He or she – most likely he – will be displaying the Confederate flag, and the mainstream media will quadruple-team him, looking for sound-bite insights into his insensitivity. Likely, he will not make his case very well. All the better for the media, looking to use him as an example of the “average” NASCAR fan. Friday, the Great Confederate Flag Hunt had already begun. There’s six Confederate flags in the infield! No, ten! No, three!

2. NASCAR in general, and Brian France in particular, must to do a better job of explaining the corporate transition from the time when it was OK for NASCAR tracks to use the Confederate flag in advertisements for races like the Dixie 500, to the point where NASCAR is now.

3. Comparing the Confederate flag to the Nazi swastika is just bizarre on multiple levels.

4. This corporate awakening, not just for NASCAR, but for the country in general, is credited in the media to the June 17 massacre of nine people in the church in Charleston by a 21-year-old cretin – sorry, alleged cretin – who actually sat with these people, who welcomed him to their Bible study, and then massacred them. The Confederate flag was at least marginally acceptable on June 16, unacceptable on June 18. That is not exactly the sort of foundation on which meaningful, lasting change is built. TV Land pulling "Dukes of Hazzard" from the schedule? That's our barometer of a significant social shift? Really?

5. Motorsport.com’s Lee Spencer wrote about NASCAR’s aggressive policy to sort-of-semi-ban the Confederate flag from races a couple of days ago. Of the over 200 comments, a rough estimate is that about 85 percent of the commenters don’t like NASCAR’s policy. A troubling number – for NASCAR, anyway – are complaining not because they can no longer fly the Confederate flag, but because they don’t like NASCAR telling them what they can or can’t do, after NASCAR takes their money. Some cite the First Amendment. Some suggest that NASCAR’s policy of being all-inclusive is being achieved by excluding some longtime and loyal fans. This can’t be ignored by NASCAR, as a story on the Confederate flag semi-ban at Daytona on NASCAR.com posted July 3rd generated 21 comments at last look, and all 21 were complaining about NASCAR’s position.

6. This will be a non-story by the New Hampshire race July 19. It may resurface at Darlington (September 6) and Talladega (October 25), but probably not as headline material, unless there’s some sort of grassroots protest – either by fans of the flag, enemies of the flag, or both. This prediction could change if some really major global event occurs, such as Caitlyn Jenner changing back into a dude.

7. Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, is presiding over the largest, most extensive makeover ever of a major American speedway ever, as the $400 million DAYTONA Rising project turns Daytona not into just a better race track, but an entertainment venue seating 100,000-plus people. This project is a template for how NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation could re-invent their venues across the country. Chitwood probably wouldn’t mind some sort of positive distraction that would take the public eye off the 50,000 seats that are still under construction, and our last look at the Superstretch grandstands before they tumble, but this controversy isn’t it.

8. The media will be watching closely how the track’s trade-your-Rebel-flag-for-an-American-flag program works, and expect these two questions: Exactly what happens to the Confederate flags collected? And are all those American flags made in America? Knowing Chitwood, perhaps the most media-savvy track president since Humpy Wheeler, he’ll have solid answers.

9. You can also bet NBC has been instructed to pay as little attention as possible to the Confederate flag controversy during the actual racing telecast. And that track security has a firm and reasoned policy on how to handle fans who might choose to fly the Confederate flag. The last thing NASCAR needs is footage of some Confederate flag-waving fans dragged out of the stands or across the infield by police. The next-to-last thing they need are fights that may break out among pro- and anti-Confederate flag factions. A win by either one of the two fastest drivers in Friday practice, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Danica Patrick, would go a long way toward returning the focus to the racing. In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, born in the Union state of Ohio: “Expect a miracle!”

10. And finally: I was born and raised in the South, to parents and grandparents and probably great-grandparents who were born and raised in the South. I have never owned nor flown a Confederate flag. To me, it has always meant just one thing: The South. It was a mildly cartoonish image that seemingly belonged on top of Bo and Luke Duke’s Dodge Charger, but now, after the church massacre on June 17, apparently it doesn’t belong anywhere. John Oliver, the British comedian, spent some time this week lecturing us on how bad the Confederate flag is. I don’t care what John Oliver thinks. Sean Hannity said that if Walmart bans the sale of the Confederate flag, it should ban a lot of rap albums. I don’t care what Sean Hannity thinks. If I want to contemplate the gravity of the Civil War, which my ancestors may or may not have been involved in, I’ll visit battlefields like Vicksburg or Natural Bridge or Antietam, which I have done, or graveyards like the ones at Shiloh or Hollywood Cemetery. Now, the 154-year-old Confederate flag apparently means only one thing: Racism. If eliminating the flag means we eliminate racism, go for it. But I think those convinced that it will might be disappointed.

Danica Patrick tops Daytona Happy Hour practice
Previous article

Danica Patrick tops Daytona Happy Hour practice

Next article

Coke Zero 400 qualifying rained out

Coke Zero 400 qualifying rained out
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

Feb 13, 2021