OPINION: NASCAR is Evolving for the Better

OPINION: NASCAR is Evolving for the Better

By James Wilson

Recently the opinion of NASCAR has been in the eye of the public. Both the most dedicated fans and those who have never watched a race has been made aware of things going on within the sport. 

After Darrell “Bubba” Wallace expressed his opinions on the Confederate Flag during a broadcast on CNN, NASCAR upset many fans when they made their stance on the flag as clear as can be. They don’t want that flag anywhere near a race track. NASCAR had a public statement on the flag put out on June 10.

 “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.”

 To some fans, this was a slap in the face, as historically that flag has gone hand in hand with the sport. Truck Series driver Ray Ciccarelli made a post on Facebook stating 

"Well it has been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction NASCAR is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over, I don't believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken people's right to fly whatever flag they love,”

 The statement was tone-deaf and unwelcome. Thankfully, however, at least two Gander Outdoors Truck Series trucks will be pulled from the pack next year making room for future talent. Ciccarelli had an average finish of 24th. For comparison, all-around daredevil Travis Pastrana, who is widely considered a NASCAR bust, has a career average finish of 21st. 

This past Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, what seemed to be a noose was found in the garage of the 43 Car, this car driven by the only full-time African-American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, Bubba Wallace. It has since been ruled that what was found was a “pull strap”. Thankfully, there will be no witch hunt for a man who would have done such a racist act. Before the investigation was complete, however, the Cup Series race at Talladega got moved to Monday. The drivers showed their support for Bubba by pushing his car to the front of the grid. The drivers made their opinions clear, “We want Bubba in NASCAR”. You can read more on that here.

NASCAR and skin color being on the front pages have caused a wave of discussion about race and motorsport in America; simply put, most motorsports are dominated by a field of white drivers. This causes many to have the idea that NASCAR is a white-only sport. This is not the case. NASCAR is a sport for blistering speed and some of the most skilled racing drivers. It does not matter where you come from. Not only is Bubba Wallace the only full-time African-American driver in the Cup Series, but Daniel Suarez also races against Wallace in NASCAR's top series. Suarez is the first foreign-born driver to win a championship in a NASCAR national championship.

Unfortunately, many NASCAR old-timers have let these occurrences be the straw that broke the camel's back. Far too many have stated things such as “I’m done with NASCAR” or “NASCAR has forgotten its roots”. There is an overabundance of NASCAR fans in the South that feel NASCAR isn’t catering to them. Fortunately, NASCAR is not catering to them, they are looking to evolve their sport and make it more accessible to more Americans. They are trying to shed the stigmas that come with the sport and rightfully so. 

The southern bunch of fans who call for a “return to NASCAR roots” are the same fans who have let NASCAR’s dwindling audience become something of a mark on its current reputation. The fans who are bothered by the removal of the flag likely turned a blind eye to the treatment of Willy T Ribbs in the 1980s. Actions speak louder than words and to the fans who don’t like the future of NASCAR, we have heard you loud and clear and I speak for all fans when I say, you won’t be missed.


PHOTO: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images