Dale Earnhardt Jr. running outside of NASCAR’s conservative pack – Los Angeles Times
A father’s son, but always his own man, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stands alone in the fray of the contentious conversation about athletes and the right to protest.
He clearly separated himself from the screaming crowd of the conservative-leaning NASCAR Nation with one tweet.
“All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests … Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK.”
Quoting John F. Kennedy in a topic related to NASCAR may be a first. But it also puts NASCAR in a complicated situation.
Would NASCAR or any of its partners dare cut ties with Earnhardt for expressing such sentiment?
Junior’s perspective certainly doesn’t fit in with the rigid mindset of the “stick to sports” theme in the NASCAR garage. Two well-known and respected owners — Richard Childress and Richard Petty — told the Associated Press that anyone engaging in a gesture of protest during the national anthem would be fired.
“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty said. “What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”
Childress chimed in, telling the AP: “Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”
Consider the historical context here. Childress was once the team owner and best friend of Dale Earnhardt, who died on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Times they are a-changin’, my friends.
NASCAR is, too, as it tries to navigate the slippery slope of fortifying a diminishing traditional fan base that does not agree with Junior’s view.
All the while, NASCAR has made a decisive push to engage a wider fan base with initiatives like the NASCAR Drive for Diversity. Full-time Cup drivers include Daniel Suárez from Mexico and Bubba Wallace, who is black.
Slippery slope indeed.
NASCAR seemed to straddle both sides of the fence in an official statement issued Monday, saying: “Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”
Earnhardt isn’t fighting the status quo. He is simply speaking his mind in an honest and direct way, and has consistently done so. When President Trump issued a travel ban in January, Earnhardt also stepped into the fray on Twitter:
“my fam immigrated from Germany in 1700s escaping religious persecution. America is created by immigrants.”
Earnhardt will be missed after he retires from full-time Cup racing after this season due to multiple concussions sustained over the years. He’s been voted the most popular driver in the sport 14 consecutive years. But he’s always been his own man who doesn’t fully fit in with NASCAR’s conservative-leaning culture.
NASCAR’s base likely will reject Dale’s sentiments on the anthem. Their point of view is more in line with what driver Brad Keselowski tweeted:
“I can get behind trying to make the world a better place. Can’t get behind putting down others; kneeling clearly does both.”
Maybe someday everyone can get back to “sticking to sports.” But not anytime soon, it seems.
The controversial fire rages. NASCAR’s Favorite Son isn’t going scorched-earth, but he definitely wants to be heard: This isn’t your grandfather’s NASCAR anymore.
What’s up with Mr. Seven-Time?
Jimmie Johnson has not won a race since Week 13 at Dover. And although the defending season champion has not run badly, he certainly isn’t in the conversation about the favorites to make the final four in Homestead in November.
His 14th-place finish Sunday in New Hampshire did nothing to dispel that. Johnson is seventh in the playoff standings and 73 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr.
“It’s been a frustrating summer, obviously,” Johnson said after the race in Loudon. “I think maybe we’ve just been swinging too hard at times and making not-ideal situations much worse. And the last three or four weeks, we just settled in and got what we could.
“Today we left some points on the table, which isn’t fun, but the last couple of weeks I think we finished where we ran. And from there, we’ll start learning. I don’t think we’re going to learn huge chunks, but we’re directionally correct. These fast cars keep having trouble and I feel like maybe there are some opportunities if we’re sitting in the right position.”