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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Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.