The last week has been one of those where the racing certainly has been the talk, but the actions outside of the track certainly have been on the minds of everyone.
Sunday’s race, before the green flag was in the air, spoke volumes of where the sport was, is, and plans on going. Seeing the field stop on the track in Atlanta, the entire speedway silent, and then hearing Steve Phelps talk to not just the drivers, but the entire NASCAR community spoke volumes. The series of drivers adding in their remarks shows that no matter the background, in the end the sport is about one specific thing…victory. Unfortunately, sometimes that victory comes at a cost, and certainly these last few weeks the country has experienced that cost at a high rate.
But, it was all that happened prior to Wednesday night’s action at Martinsville that was the real talk.
Some of it was positive, some of it was negative, and some even had an indecisive viewpoint. It all has happened so fast, and the moves were so large, many couldn’t grasp it that fast.
I’m gonna try and keep this all in perspective, especially since much like many of us in the media, we at one point started out as fans. However, part of being in media is you have to keep personal opinions out of writing, otherwise they can be misconstrued and ultimately cost someone everything they worked hard for.
That being said, hearing that NASCAR, along with other sports, say that peaceful protests at the track by crews and/or drivers certainly is going to look differently, especially after reading that they can do so during the National Anthem. Of course, I agree there is a time and a place to protest, and that is everyone’s right. When workers go on strike, it’s because they don’t agree with something the company they are employed by is doing. So, in a sense, someone kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner is saying the same thing. It may not be something NASCAR has done or is doing, but it is saying they don’t agree with something in the country.
Having said that, kneeling to me also is a way of praying for peace and love, much like at church. So, the fact NASCAR is allowing those to kneel should they choose is a big statement. However, simply sitting for the National Anthem, unless physically unable to do so, probably would not go over as well, so I expect more to kneel rather than simply sit.
As for not allowing the confederate flag on NASCAR properties, that may be something harder to police. Not so much from NASCAR, because that is their policy, but more over from the track properties.
Since every track is private property, if they say the flag can’t fly, they will do everything they can to ensure it doesn’t.
That being said, those places outside of the track where fans will tailgate, once they are able to again as soon as regulations allow, might be harder. After all, not everyone tailgates on track property. Some do so at private homes, businesses, and wherever available. So, the question then becomes…will NASCAR say that as long as they are in town, the businesses and homes belong to them and the flag can’t fly?
I am on neither side of this argument, because when it comes to that particular flag, some are happy while others are upset. I do feel, for NASCAR, it is a step in the direction they want to go, since in order to be a diverse organization, they have to try and eliminate all aspects of hate or discrimination. But, they will also have to be prepared for backlash.
Now, onto the actual action on the track. Two races in four days, certainly a tough task for any driver, and in the end we saw two extremely different races. Sunday, we saw Kevin Harvick pull out another dominant victory at a track that he seems to now officially have a lock on better than anyone in the field.
He certainly made those corn farmers happy when his maize colored car took victory.
Move to Wednesday, completely different scenario. The eventual winner had to overcome a bit of difficulty, including a power saw to his fender, to come back and win his first race of the season. But, even if it was someone other than Martin Truex Jr. taking the win, seeing racing under the lights at Martinsville was an absolutely amazing thing to witness.
Ever since the lights got installed, even though some events started in daylight, they would finish with the lights on. We have seen Chase Elliott get a bigger reaction than the hometown boy, fans make Joey Logano the most hated driver for the second time in three years, and then Denny Hamlin do his best Logano impression.
No matter the track, it is certainly clear that under the lights, things are different. Every short track on the circuit now can say they held a race under the lights.
But, alas, it is time to park it, just for a short time, since we are back at it on Sunday in Miami. But, that race will certainly have just a slightly different feeling when it goes green.