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Austin Dillon on national anthem protest: ‘I don’t know how it would go over with the fans’

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While protests around the national anthem continue in sports like the NFL and Major League Soccer, the patriotism shown in NASCAR remains strong.

The controversy started late last month when Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers was seen sitting on the bench during a pre-season game as the national anthem played. Some players have since followed suit by taking a knee as the anthem played before their games. U.S soccer star Megan Rapinoe also took a knee before a game last week.

There has not been a protest in NASCAR during its weekly pre-race routine of honoring the American flag and playing of the national anthem. NASCAR televises its pre-race ceremonies and those who aren’t being respectful rarely go unnoticed, which is why Austin Dillon isn’t sure what the reaction would be if there were a protest.

“I don’t know how it would go over with the fans – we’re a very patriotic sport,” Dillon said. “I think our sport does a good job of showing that every Saturday, Sunday of showing patriotism and what the flag means. Not only that, we have a lot of military out here each and every weekend.”

Kaepernick’s actions drew the ire of a few drivers. They included three-time champion Tony Stewart, which resulted in a strongly worded tweet and a demonstration of his patriotism last weekend at Darlington Raceway. Stewart stood alongside his No. 14 Chevrolet holding an American flag with his team.

Stewart’s actions weren’t necessarily out of place as there have been many examples throughout the years of the sport’s wide-ranging patriotism.

Every May, an elaborate pre-race ceremony is put on at Charlotte Motor Speedway in recognition of Memorial Day. Brad Keselowski celebrates each race win with the American flag. Fans also bring flags to wave in the grandstands or fly from their campsites.

Following the 2001 Sept. 11 attacks, teams included decals on their cars, either of American flags or other tributes to the victims. Mars and M&M’s gave up their logos on the No. 36 for Ken Schrader’s car to be painted like the American flag.

They did the same again in 2011 at Richmond with driver Kyle Busch in honor of the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Saturday night, on the eve of the 15th anniversary, all four Stewart-Haas Racing cars will carry decals in remembrance of the victims. Dillon will again stand by his car as the ceremonies take place.

“I’m close friends with a lot of SEAL guys that I check on that are still in battle, like still going out and putting their lives on the line, so I get to do what I do on Sunday and have this amazing job,” Dillon said.

“I’ve got SEAL guys that will personally text me and say, ‘Hey, thank you for not moving around; sitting there, we love that.’ When they see people that are not paying attention during our national anthem or kind of off looking around in the right place, it means a lot to them just to stand at attention. I wouldn’t want to ask a guy that puts his life on the line for our freedom to have to see that.”

Dillon understands his attitude may not be shared throughout the garage, but so far the pride shown in the NASCAR community hasn’t wavered since the controversy began.

“I think this is the greatest country in the world,” Dillon said. “I’ve traveled to other countries, and I’m glad to get home every time to America.”

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NASCAR America: Will William Byron’s dominance in Trucks, Xfinity transfer to Cup?

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William Byron dominated the Camping World Truck Series in 2016 with 7 wins, but came up short of the championship, finishing fifth.

He was one of the top drivers this season in the Xfinity Series and ultimately did what he fell short of the year before, capturing the championship and Rookie of the Year honors.

What’s ahead of Byron in 2018 when he is a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving for Hendrick Motorsports? Could he make it two championships in a row?

On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, our team of analysts – Parker Kligerman, Steve Letarte, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty – gave their thoughts about Byron’s chances for immediate success in the Cup Series.

Check out the video above. You might be surprised by some of their answers.

NASCAR America’s Jarrett, Letarte, Petty recap 2017, make 2018 predictions

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The 2017 NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series seasons have only been over for a few days.

And while it’s understandable that on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Steve Letarte, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty reflected back on the recently completed race seasons, they also took a very bold move:

The new season is still three months away, but our analyst team is ALREADY making predictions for 2018.

We don’t want to spoil the surprise or show their hands. If you want to hear how they’re already viewing 2018, click on the video above.

Justin Hartley from NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ on Dale Jr.’s special bond with fans

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Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. is now officially retired as a NASCAR Cup driver, the special bond between the former driver of the 88 will likely never go away.

Sure, Alex Bowman is replacing Junior in the 88, which will likely pick up some of Junior Nation to cheer for him. Others will gravitate to cheer for other drivers, perhaps youngsters William Byron, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and others.

But one thing is for certain: once a Dale Jr. fan and a member of Junior Nation, ALWAYS a Dale Jr. fan and a member of Junior Nation.

Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on NBC’s top-rated “This Is Us,” is proud to call himself a card carrying member of Junior Nation. In the video above, Hartley shows what it’s like to be a Dale Jr. fan, what the third-generation driver meant to so many people for so many years, and how his legacy will continue on for decades to come.

Check out the video above to see what Junior Nation is all about, as well as thoughts from our NBC analysts, Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett.

NASCAR America: Nate Ryan on how 78 rode roller coaster to Cup crown

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If the 2017 NASCAR Cup season was an amusement park ride, it definitely would be a roller coaster for Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn and the rest of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team.

Up and down the season went, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

There was adversity on the track and tragedy off the track, with Pearn losing his best friend to a freakish infection, and team member Jim Watson passing away in Kansas one day before the Cup race that Truex would go on to win and dedicate to his fallen teammate.

And through it all, Truex and longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex dealt with the recurrence of ovarian cancer with strength, inspiration and fortitude.

The 78 team’s dedication, sticking to the plan and rallying together as a family was the difference.

NBC Sports’ and NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan presented a touching pre-race tribute to Truex and his team before Sunday’s race. On Tuesday’s NASCAR America, Ryan gave an updated version of that tribute, capping it off with the best way possible: recalling how Truex and the 78 team won it all.

Check out the video above to see Nate’s touching piece.