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 NASCAR

NASCAR Lifts Suspension on Kurt Busch

Jerry Markland—Getty Images NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

He can resume driving immediately but will remain on probation

NASCAR has lifted driver Kurt Busch’s suspension, though he remains on probation, the group announced in a statement Wednesday.

Busch was suspended Feb. 20 amid allegations of domestic violence. Last week, prosecutors said they would not pursue criminal charges against him, something NASCAR officials said was a deciding factor in his reinstatement.

“He has fully complied with our reinstatement program during his suspension and the health care expert who conducted his evaluation recommended his immediate return,” NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said.

The change is effective immediately, though Busch will remain on probation and “undergo additional steps to address the behavior for which he was penalized.” The NASCAR release did not address the specifics of those steps. Busch will also still be eligible for the Sprint Cup, though he will enter the tournament with no points because he was suspended during the Daytona 500 and two other tournament races.

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 NASCAR

Kurt Busch Won’t Race Daytona 500 After Domestic Abuse Ruling

The driver lost his final appeal to overturn NASCAR's ban

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch lost an appeal late Saturday to overturn an indefinite suspension from the sport on the eve of the Daytona 500. The punishment was levied on Friday in response to a finding by a Delaware family court that the driver had committed an act of domestic violence.

“Kurt Busch now has exhausted his appeal options under the NASCAR rulebook, and the indefinite suspension remains in effect,” NASCAR said in a statement. The decision means Busch won’t be able to race in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The organization said that Busch would need to undergo treatment and win its approval before returning to the race track. Busch vowed to continue fighting the decision through an attorney.

“We are unhappy with the latest decision to deny our re-appeal, but we will continue to exhaust every procedural and legal remedy we have available to us until Kurt Busch is vindicated,” said Busch’s attorney Rusty Hardin.

[ESPN]

TIME NASCAR

Jeff Gordon Will Not Compete for Championship After 2015 Season

2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards - Show
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Jeff Gordon speaks during the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on Dec. 5, 2014

Four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will run his final full-time season in 2015, he announced on Thursday.

Gordon, 43, has raced in the Cup Series since 1992 for Hendrick Motorsports. He had four wins, three poles and 14 top-fives en route to finishing in sixth place in the Chase last season.

He declined to say he is retiring, because he remains open to racing on a limited basis after this season.

As a race car driver, much of what I’ve done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions,” Gordon said. “I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason, and I’ve decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship. I won’t use the ‘R-word’ because I plan to stay extremely busy in the years ahead, and there’s always the possibility I’ll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans to do that.

“I don’t foresee a day when I’ll ever step away from racing. I’m a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I’m passionate about the business and its future success. As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, I’m a partner with Rick (Hendrick) and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come. It means so much to have the chance to continue working with the owner who took a chance on me and the incredible team that’s stood behind me every step of the way.

Gordon won his first championship as a 23-year-old in 1994 and also won titles in 1997, 1998 and 2001. His 92 Cup wins and 77 poles are each No. 3 all-time.

He won the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indy Motor Speedway in 1994 and has won the event a record five times. He is also a three-time Daytona 500 champion.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NASCAR

NASCAR Driver’s Ex-Girlfriend Denies Being an Assassin

Kurt Busch speaks to the media after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Fla. on Nov. 14, 2014.
Todd Warshaw—Getty Images Kurt Busch speaks to the media after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Fla. on Nov. 14, 2014.

The claim comes after NASCAR driver Kurt Busch's testimony regarding ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll on Tuesday

The four-day hearing over a no-contact order filed against NASCAR driver Kurt Busch took a bizarre turn on Tuesday, when Busch testified that his ex-girlfriend is a trained assassin.

Patricia Driscoll, Busch’s ex, has accused the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion of slamming her head three times against a bedroom wall in his motorhome at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 26. Busch and his legal team have denied the allegations, as have her Driscoll and her legal team regarding the assassin allegations.

From the Associated Press:

“Everybody on the outside can tell me I’m crazy, but I lived on the inside and saw it firsthand,” Kurt Busch said when his attorney, Rusty Hardin, questioned why he still believed Patricia Driscoll is a hired killer.

In an interview late Tuesday, Driscoll called Busch’s assertion “ludicrous,” saying he took it “straight from a fictional movie script” she has been working on for eight years and that he has proofread.

Driscoll, 37, is president of the Armed Forces Foundation, a non-profit that supports active and retired members from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. In 2010, the foundation partnered with NASCAR to form “Troops to the Track,” a program that hosts and celebrates service members at races. According to the foundation’s website, the program has expanded to 26 races across the country and honors more than 400 wounded service members, veterans and their families.

Driscoll also works for Frontline Defense Systems, a surveillance system company based in Washington, D.C. Her bio on the company’s website reads as follows:

Patricia has spent the majority of her career in the narcotics and intelligence world. While working abroad, many issues came up at home that brought her to Washington DC, where over the last 9 years she has developed strong relationships in the House, Senate, and the White House. Her strongest ally’s are the Armed Services Committee, Appropriations, Ways and Means, the Homeland Security Committee, and the Intelligence Committee. Here are a few of the things she has been involved in over the past few years:

  • Became an advisor for the field directors of Border Patrol and Customs to Congress and Headquarters Border Patrol and US Customs
  • Testified before Congress on small business issues regarding Homeland Security
  • Was paid by the British Embassy to go on a speaking tour of England regarding “Doing Business with Homeland Security”. I was the panel expert on the law enforcement section as well as the security and intelligence components.
  • Was invited to be a panel expert for the intelligence field for the Dept of Defense summit on Small Business at the Pentagon.
  • Panel advisor for State Dept. to the Ambassador for Human Trafficking
  • Congressional advisor for narcotics, trafficking, immigration, and border protection

In a YouTube video entitled “Pocket Commando,” Driscoll details her involvement with both companies, as well as her role as a parent with a young boy.

“I’m ‘Commando Mommy,’ as far as he’s concerned,” Driscoll says when describing her relationship with her son.

Warning: The video below features explicit language and adult themes.

Driscoll denied Busch’s assertions to the AP, calling the allegations of her being a trained assassin “ludicrous and without basis,” and saying, “Not even Rusty Hardin believes this,” referring to Busch’s attorney.

A court ruling on Driscoll’s request for the no-contact order is expected by early February. The allegations of Busch shoving Driscoll’s head into the wall are the subject of a separate criminal investigation.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME NASCAR

NASCAR Driver Says His Ex-Girlfriend Is a Trained Assassin

Kurt Busch speaks to the media after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Fla. on Nov. 14, 2014.
Todd Warshaw—Getty Images Kurt Busch speaks to the media after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Fla. on Nov. 14, 2014.

Patricia Driscoll accused Busch of assaulting her in September, and is seeking a no-contact order

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch testified on Tuesday that his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, is a trained assassin.

Busch’s testimony came during a four-day hearing over Driscoll’s request for a no-contact order.

Driscoll has accused Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion, of slamming her head three times against a bedroom wall of his motorhome at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 26. Busch and his legal team have denied the allegations, which are the subject of a separate criminal investigation. The four-day hearing on the protection order ended Tuesday afternoon.

From the Associated Press:

”Everybody on the outside can tell me I’m crazy, but I lived on the inside and saw it firsthand,” Kurt Busch said when his attorney, Rusty Hardin, questioned why he still believed Patricia Driscoll is a hired killer.

In an interview late Tuesday, Driscoll called Busch’s assertion ”ludicrous,” saying he took it ”straight from a fictional movie script” she has been working on for eight years and that he has proofread.

Busch and his legal team have attempted to discredit Driscoll as a bitter ex-girlfriend who is trying to destroy his career after their breakup. During his testimony on Tuesday, Busch said Driscoll had claimed that a female character from Zero Dark Thirty, a 2012 film depicting the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, was a “composite” of her and other women.

On Monday, Busch said Driscoll told him she was a “mercenary who killed people for a living,” and had shown him pictures of bodies with gunshot wounds.

Driscoll denied the assertions to the AP.

”These statements made about being a trained assassin, hired killer, are ludicrous and without basis and are an attempt to destroy my credibility,” Driscoll said. ”Not even Rusty Hardin believes this.”

”I find it interesting that some of the outlandish claims come straight from a fictional movie script I’ve been working on for eight years,” Driscoll added.

A court ruling on Driscoll’s request for a no-contact order is expected later this month or in early February.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

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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