TIME NASCAR

NASCAR Distances Itself From Confederate Flag After Massacre

Confederate Flag NASCAR Auto Racing
Rob Carr—AP Confederate flags fly in the infield as cars come out of turn one during a NASCAR auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., on Oct. 7, 2007

Dylann Roof appeared in photos holding Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags

Confederate flags are as easy to find at NASCAR races as cutoff jeans, cowboy hats and beer.

They fly over motorhomes. They adorn clothing. They are regular fixtures, just like Ford and Chevrolet, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

NASCAR probably would like to see them go away.

The sanctioning body for the motorsports series backed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds in the wake of the Charleston church massacre. NASCAR issued its statement Tuesday, the same day South Carolina lawmakers agreed to discuss removing the flag and one day after Haley said “the time has come” to take it down. And that is as far as NASCAR appears willing to go for now.

“As our industry works collectively to ensure that all fans are welcome at our races, NASCAR will continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity,” NASCAR said. “While NASCAR recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens, we will continue to strive for an inclusive environment at our events.”

International Speedway Corp., NASCAR’S sister company that owns a majority of the tracks, echoed the sanctioning body’s response.

“We join NASCAR in support of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s position on the Confederate flag,” ISC President John Saunders said in a statement. “ISC strives to ensure all fans are welcome to enjoy our events and maintains an inclusive environment at our facilities nationwide. ISC will continue our long-standing practice to prohibit the sale of Confederate flag material on our property.”

Saunders declined a request by The Associated Press for further comment. Other tracks did not respond to requests for comment.

Nine people were slain last week at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Dylann Storm Roof, 21, is charged with murder. The white man appeared in photos holding Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags, and purportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence.

Big retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Sears, eBay and Etsy all said they would remove Confederate merchandise from their stores or websites and politicians across the South called for various steps to move away from the symbol that many associate with racism.

NASCAR has faced criticism over the years for various issues, often involving sponsors. A decade ago, there were questions when hard liquor companies emerged as potential sponsors for a sport built around fast cars and a series whose founding in 1948 gave ex-moonshiners a place to race. More recently, the National Rifle Association drew attention when it struck a sponsorship deal with Texas Motor Speedway not long after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Connecticut.

Confederate flags have been flown by fans at NASCAR races for years. For NASCAR’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Charleston, a Confederate flag theme was part of poster merchandise from the 1950s into the late ’70s.

Tracks have long and detailed rules for fans, but none involving the content of flags. Although NASCAR has eliminated the use of Confederate flags in any official capacity, it could take things a step further and include language in sanctioning agreements that would ban them altogether at tracks.

But that would be difficult to enforce at tracks with hundreds of acres of infield space and sometimes more than 100,000 fans.

“There’s only so much that you can do with an issue like this if you’re NASCAR,” said Brad Daugherty, a former NBA star and current co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing.

“But I will tell you, being an African-American man going to the racetrack and seeing the Confederate flag – and I’m a different egg or a different bird because I’m a Southern kid, I’m a mountain kid, I hunt and fish, I love racing,” Daugherty said Tuesday on Sirius XM radio. “But to walk into the racetrack and there’s only few that you walk into and see that Confederate flag – it does make my skin crawl. And even though I do my best to not acknowledge it or to pay any attention to it, it’s there and it bothers me because of what it represents.”

In 2012, NASCAR and track officials canceled plans to have pro golfer Bubba Watson drive the car from the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard” at Phoenix International Raceway, which is owned by ISC. Officials cited concerns about a negative reaction to an image of the Confederate flag on the roof of the “General Lee.”

“The image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive,” NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said at the time. Watson said he didn’t “stand for the Confederate flag” and noted that NASCAR was “built on moonshining,” an occasional theme in the TV show.

Former “Dukes” actor and ex-Georgia Congressman Ben Jones criticized that decision.

“As a cast member of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ and the owner of several ‘General Lees,’ I can attest that the car and our show reflect the very best of American values, and that Hazzard County was a place where racism was not tolerated,” said Jones, who played the mechanic Cooter on the show. “This action by NASCAR is a provocative and unnecessary overreaction to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is a disgraceful and gratuitous insult to a lot of very decent people.”

TIME Auto Racing

Watch: Race Car Driver Survives Terrifying Accident

"I’m counting on my guys, my boys, to put the car back together and go back to work"

A top race car driver survived a terrifying accident Wednesday, flipping the vehicle during a practice run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but somehow emerging from the wreck unharmed.

Footage posted to the speedway’s official Facebook page shows three-time Indianapolis 500 champ Helio Castroneves losing control of the wheel as his car spins off of a bend in the track, careens off of a wall, flips, bounces upside-down against the pavement and lands back on its wheels. Castroneves walked away shaken, but uninjured.

“The accident was most impressive, but the good news is I am feeling very good,” Castroneves said in a statement. “I’m counting on my guys, my boys, to put the car back together and go back to work.”

Castroneves ran the fastest lap in the second day of practice on Tuesday, outpacing his rivals at 227.5 mph.

TIME Auto Racing

Idris Elba Proves He Can Drive Like James Bond

The actor broke a 1927 record in the U.K. for the "flying mile"

Actor Idris Elba broke a nearly 90-year speed record in the U.K. last weekend when he averaged more than 180 miles per hour during a one-mile stretch.

The Luther star was in the driver’s seat of a standard Bentley Continental GT Speed on Sunday in Wales, according to CNN Money. His top speed was 186.4 miles per hour during the “flying mile”—in which a driver can get up to speed before the car is clocked at two points, one mile apart—but his average was 180.4 miles per hour. Elba’s run came while shooting the Discovery Channel series Idris Elba: No Limits, which will air in July.

Elba beat out the last record, set in 1927 by Sir Malcolm Campbell, who hit 174.2 miles in hour.

Now imagine the car chase scenes if he ever actually plays James Bond.

[CNN Money]

TIME Auto Racing

Watch NASCAR Driver Joey Logano Win the Daytona 500

He beat out four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and two-time Daytona winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NASCAR driver Joey Logano finally lived up to his billing as one of the top drivers on the American racing circuit, winning the coveted Daytona 500 on Sunday in a nail-biting finish.

The 24-year-old Connecticut native beat out a competitive playing field including two-time Daytona winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, Sports Illustrated reported.

Gordon dominated most of the race but was stymied by traffic during the final push, allowing Logano to surge to the front and hold on for his maiden title.

“Daytona 500, oh my God! Are you kidding me?” he yelled following his victory. “I was so nervous the whole race.”

[Sports Illustrated]

TIME Auto Racing

Here’s How Much Gas Daytona 500 Racers Will Use

Daytona 500 Gas NASCAR
Jared C. Tilton—Getty Images Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crosses the finishline to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Fec. 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

And other surprising facts about the race

The 43 cars racing at Sunday’s Daytona 500 will use an estimated 5,375 gallons of racing fuel, according to NASCAR.

But don’t start panicking about greenhouse gases yet — while that’s a startling amount of gas, it’s actually only a small chunk of the 360 million gallons-plus of gas used daily in the U.S. On top of that, NASCAR says the cars’ racing fuel, Sunoco Green E15, is specially blended to reduce the cars’ greenhouse emissions by 20%.

In any case, NASCAR says it has plans to plant enough trees near its racetracks to offset carbon emissions for the next 40 years. That’s being done in an effort to quell concerns about racing’s environmental impact.

It also isn’t clear if NASCAR will benefit from how cheap gasoline has been lately. The organization says the price of the E15 it gets from Sunoco is baked into a sponsorship deal, so the cost might have been worked out based on prices before the cost of oil took a plunge late last year.

The Daytona 500 begins on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 1:00 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast by Fox.

TIME Auto Racing

Tony Stewart Not Charged in the Death of Kevin Ward Jr.

Tony Stewart
Paul J. Bergstrom—AP NASCAR driver Tony Stewart (14) looks out from his garage during a practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. on Sept. 13, 2014.

On Wednesday, a grand jury in upstate New York decided that criminal charges would not be brought against Tony Stewart in the death of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr.​

During an Aug. 9 sprint car race, Stewart’s car hit Ward after Ward got out of his car and walked onto the track to confront Stewart.

Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo said that Ward was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash, which was enough to impair his judgment.

On Sept. 16, Tantillo said he would present evidence from the police investigation of the incident to a grand jury.

Tantillo held a news conference on Wednesday to reveal that findings of the investigation.

According to the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle, Chuck Hebing, who was driving in the race where Ward was hit, was called to testify about the accident.

Stewart did not participate in the three Sprint Cup Series races after Ward’s death but has raced in the last four.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME

Formula E Electric Motor Racing Debuts With Spectacular Crash

Driver Nick Heidfeld was uninjured in the dramatic rollover, while Lucas Di Grassi emerged victorious

The first-ever Formula E electric car race ended in Beijing Saturday with a thrilling crash as motorists dueled for a place in automotive history.

Germany’s Nick Heidfeld and France’s Nicolas Prost raced for the lead on the final lap of the race when a slight nudge between their cars sent Heidfeld skidding into a tire barrier, landing upside down. The crash allowed Audi Sport’s Lucas Di Grassi to emerge victorious.

“I would not have expected for him to have attempted a suicide move at the end of the race,” Prost said, according to the BBC. Heidfeld was uninjured.

Formula E races are one hour long, with vehicles reaching speeds of about 150 miles per hour — much slower than 220 mph achieved by Formula One racers. Music plays at the track and drivers have to change vehicles halfway through the race when their first battery runs out. The season is 10-races long and will finish this year in London’s Battersea Park next June.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson each back Formula E teams.

The next Formula E race is in Malaysia on November 22.

See the full clip here.

[BBC]

 

TIME Auto Racing

NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart: Deadly Incident Will ‘Affect My Life Forever’

Oral-B USA 500 - Practice
Jamie Squire—Getty Images Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.

Nascar champion Tony Stewart's car struck his fellow racer on Aug. 9

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart said Friday he remains heartbroken after he hit and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward in a racing crash three weeks ago. The comments come as Stewart, a champion driver, prepares to race again for the first time since the tragedy.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

The incident, which occurred in a sprint car race in upstate New York earlier this month, shocked the racing world. Stewart’s car struck 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr. as Ward walked on the tarmac of the race track, apparently trying to flag down Stewart after a collision between the two drivers.

Stewart did not take questions at the Friday press conference, citing an ongoing police investigation of the incident.

 

TIME Auto Racing

Tony Stewart to Miss Third Consecutive NASCAR Race

Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, N.Y on August 8, 2014.
Derik Hamilton—AP Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, N.Y on August 8, 2014.

Since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a race in upstate New York on August 9

Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will not participate in this weekend’s Bristol Motor Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday, marking the third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup race he has missed since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a race in upstate New York on August 9.

Stewart could face criminal charges for Ward’s death, who had exited his vehicle after Stewart clipped his car and sent it crashing into the wall. After exiting his car, Ward wandered onto the track and tried to flag down Stewart, but was struck by Stewart’s fast-moving vehicle as the driver lapped back around.

Jeff Burton will replace Stewart for the second straight week. Burton took the number 14 car for Saturday’s Michigan International Speedway race.

NASCAR announced new rules on Friday to protect the safety of its drivers, requiring that “at no time” should a driver or crew member approach another moving vehicle or the racing surface after an on-track incident that prohibits the car from moving forward.

TIME Auto Racing

NASCAR Changes Safety Rules After Driver’s Death

Cheez-It 355 At The Glen
Jeff Zelevansky—Getty Images Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, driven by Regan Smith, is pushed to the grid with police escort prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 10, 2014 in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

In the wake of Kevin Ward Jr's death

NASCAR announced new rules Friday to protect the safety of its drivers, a day after the funeral of Kevin Ward Jr., the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver struck and killed by Tony Stewart’s car during a race this month.

The new rules state that “at no time” should a driver or crew member approach another moving vehicle or the racing surface after an on track incident that prohibits the car from moving forward. The driver must then proceed as directed by safety officers and other cars “should slow down to a cautious speed” as already outlined by Nascar’s “Yellow Flag” rules. Nascar said it would handle potential penalties for infractions on a case by case basis.

Stewart could face criminal charges after striking Ward, who left his vehicle after it was clipped by Stewart’s car, sending his car crashing into the wall. Stewart has decided to not participate in Sunday’s Michigan International Speedway race as scheduled.

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