Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

‘You want to be a positive member of society’

Leave a comment

LOUDON, NH — Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem highlights the role athletes can play in social issues, and the protests this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a police shooting has made such topics more personal for some NASCAR drivers who live nearby.

Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson says he tries to let his actions speak loudest on such issues.

“I try to keep my social media on the fun side and then try to lead by example and be a great citizen of our country,’’ said Johnson, who appeared earlier this year in a campaign between NASCAR and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality to promote inclusion and diversity within and outside of sports and was a part of the 2014 campaign to help encourage leadership among young girls.

“I’m a firm believer of gender equality, race equality, and I live my life that way and teach that to my children.’’

Johnson admits this past week has been difficult in explaining to his oldest daughter, who is 6 years old, what has happened in Charlotte.

“I found as I would answer a question, she would have three or four more questions and (then I’d continue to) try to explain to her the issue in Charlotte with the police officer,’’ Johnson said. “We’ve taught her to really love and embrace anybody in uniform. For her to try to grasp that a police officer was mad at somebody was just out of her mind to start with. Just more questions came up.’’

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott during a confrontation Tuesday afternoon. Police say Scott had a gun. The victim’s family disputes that.

Protests took place the next four nights in Charlotte. The first two nights the protests turned violent with damage to Charlotte businesses and one person fatally shot by another citizen. The NASCAR Hall of Fame suffered minor damage. Protests were peaceful Thursday and Friday night.

“I just hope everybody can look at everything and gather their thoughts and figure out the right way to fix the problems we have,’’ Austin Dillon said. “Hopefully, with the way things are, the right people will come together and fix these problems that are going on. It’s just sad really.”

Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began sitting for the national anthem during preseason games last month to protest what he deems as wrongdoings against minorities. He now kneels for the anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview last month. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Kaepernick has pledged to donate $1 million to community organizations. Kaepernick’s protest has been joined by some NFL players and athletes in other sports. All the players for the Indiana Fever of the WNBA knelt and locked arms for the anthem before a playoff game this past week, becoming the first pro team to protest together in such a manner.

Whether on TV or via social media, NASCAR drivers also are in the spotlight and their message can be shared with many. Joey Logano recognizes such a responsibility.

“I think any athlete or public figure takes on a responsibility when you sit down here and talk to you guys, or at any point,’’ said Joey Logano, who appeared in the same campaign this year with Johnson, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr. that promoted inclusion and diversity. “There’s a lot of people that you can influence in good ways or bad ways, and I feel like you should know that. There are a lot of athletes and public figures that don’t realize that about the reaction they can make across the country or the world in a lot of cases by just a couple of words.

“I feel like that should be somehow taught. I believe we all should be entitled to our opinions. That’s A-OK, maybe some of the ways that it’s done is not the best way possible, but I personally believe when I sit down here I know the influence that I can have on young eyes watching us that are very fragile at the time that they could go a lot of different ways. You want to be a positive member of society, and I think that’s something that I try to preach all the time is that, hey, I want to positively impact somebody’s life.”

Brad Keselowski wrote in a recent blog what he sees as the balance between activism and allowing fans to enjoy sports.

“A lot of people try to escape from the outside world through sports,’’ Keselowski wrote. “So we have to always be cognizant of that as an athlete. And I think it’s important not to force-feed politics to our fans, because we have to remember why they’re there. At the same time, I don’t think that means we can deny truth or ignore important things that are happening. It’s an extremely tough line to walk, and quite honestly, I don’t know if there are many athletes, including me, who really have handled it all that well, or to everyone’s satisfaction.

“To be overly involved is forgetting your day job. To not be involved is a tremendous waste.’’

Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

Leave a comment

The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Leave a comment

Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report