NASCAR drivers discuss what national anthem means to them

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DOVER, Delaware — Richard Childress Racing drivers Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman both addressed the national anthem and their feelings for it Friday in light of protests by other athletes and comments by Childress last week.

Childress was asked before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire about RCR’s policy for those who would kneel during the anthem. He said: “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many peoples gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Asked about Childress’ comments during a media session Friday at Dover International Speedway, Newman said: “I was doing some deer hunting this week. I drove up to Maryland, and I passed a Greyhound bus, and I didn’t see a single employee of RCR or ECR on it, so I think everything is fine.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday how “proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans” for standing during last weekend’s anthem at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Shortly after that tweet, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted a quote from former President John F. Kennedy that “All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests.” The tweet is his most popular and has been retweeted about 150,000 times.

Both Dillon and Newman also were asked if they thought Childress had taken away any choice for his employees on the matter by his comments at last week (North Carolina law provides sports teams ability to fire employees if they kneel for the anthem). 

Dillon said: “I have no clue. But for me, I stand for the national anthem, for those that give us the right to go out and race every weekend. For me personally, when I go out there, I think it’s an honor to stand during the national anthem and have my hand over my heart and stare at the flag. I enjoy that part of my weekend so I can give a little bit back to those who have given their lives to allow me to go race. So, that’s where I stand, personally. I can’t talk for anyone else.”

Newman said: “I have to say that the word ‘protest’ is kind of conflicting in my mind. I don’t think that there is anything to protest when it comes to why I personally stand for the American flag. I think it’s all about liberty and justice for all, and that’s the freedom that we have, and we should all be thankful for that. And if you have the ability to stand, that’s the way I was taught to treat that moment, was to stand. If everybody else was taught differently, it’s news to me.”

Also Friday, Danica Patrick was in the media center and asked to what extent NASCAR drivers may be treated differently than NFL or NBA players if they took a knee during the anthem.

“Well, I don’t know,” Patrick said. Has every other sport and every other business been surveyed as to what they would do? If we’re only using two sports as an example then it’s just one or the other.

“How you run your business is how you run your business. Either you sign a contract that says you’re an independent contractor or you sign one that says you’re an employee. Maybe it comes down to that. Maybe it just comes down to doing your job. You have to figure out what’s more important to you. If you think something should be done differently and you might sacrifice your job, then that’s your choice. Otherwise, it’s your choice the other way, too. In general, there’s plenty of platforms to speak your mind. So if it comes in interference with being able to put food on the table or being able to do something that you love, then I think you should probably go by the rules.

There are a lot of rules in this world. I don’t really drive the speed limit but I’m supposed to and they can give me tickets. I was thinking I should pull out my FIA racing license next time I get pulled over. I don’t know how well that will go over. There are rules for everybody. Even though maybe I have a bigger comfort zone or more ability than that cop giving me the ticket, it’s still a rule.

Earlier this week, NASCAR issued a statement on the issue, noting freedom people have “to peacefully express one’s opinion.”

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New Hampshire to add traction compound to racing surface

Photo: Dustin Long
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New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials will add the PJ1 traction compound to the racing surface before this weekend’s racing, a track spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports.

Track officials are scheduled to put the traction compound on the track today and are expected to do so again Saturday and Sunday, pending NASCAR approval. The track reapplied the traction compound the morning of last July’s race.

The traction compound is to be applied to the first groove (lowest groove) and third grove (just outside the main groove) in all four corners. A track spokesperson said the traction compound would be applied on the 12 feet at the bottom of the track from the yellow line on up. Then there will be a 12-foot section that will not be applied (the main groove) and the traction compound is to be applied on another 12 feet above the main grove

The track used the PJ1 compound for both Cup weekends last year to help enhance the passing.

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Weekend schedule for Cup, Xfinity at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams will make their lone visit of the year to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch combined to win 14 of the first 19 races. Will their dominance continue? In Xfinity, there have been six different winners in the last seven races. Will that streak continue.

Here’s a look at the track schedule for the weekend:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

FRIDAY, JULY 20

8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

10 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Xfinity garage open

Noon – 12:50 p.m. — Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network)

SATURDAY, JULY 21

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (CNBC)

11:05 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (CNBC)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

3:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. — Lakes Region 200 Xfinity race; 200 laps/211.6 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SUNDAY, JULY 22

8:30 a.m. — Cup garage opens

Noon — Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. — Cup driver introductions

2 p.m. — Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 Cup race; 301 laps/318.46 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch believes Martin Truex Jr. is his biggest competition

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Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have been so strong in 2018 that many believe the championship will come down to them – and only them.

Busch has five wins, Harvick matches him with five and Truex earned his fourth win last week on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.

Who is Busch’s greatest competition? Busch does not think the other five-time winner will be the driver to beat. Instead, he picked Truex as the top contender at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Wednesday’s NASCAR America.

“If you had to choose just one, I’d have to say Martin,” Busch said. “Just with the successes that they’ve had on mile-and-a-halves. Even though Harvick’s been just as good at mile-and-halves.”

Last year, Truex dominated the 1.5-milers – including a win in the final race that crowned him champion.

“Overall, the 78’s just so strong and they certainly know how to turn up the wick when it matters most,“ Busch said.

Busch is not ready to concede the title to Truex, however.

“I think you’ve seen the 78’s dominance of last year toned back,” he said. “They’re third, they’re fourth, they’re fifth – they’re still competitive, They’re still right there, but they’re not nine seconds out front. So I think the field has been closed up. … But they still have that little bit of edge when they need it.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch would have accepted Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s call on Friday

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If Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had called Kyle Busch as late as Friday morning before the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, none of last week’s verbal conflict between the two would have happened.

At least that is Busch’s opinion of the situation.

“If he would have made the call: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – even Friday morning still counts,” Busch said. “He could have talked about how I hurt his feeling for the things I said over the radio when I blasted him because I was mad over knocking a wall down.

“He could have said, ‘Hey man I’m sorry I got into you – you know I pushed up,’ or whatever happened … and ‘Hey, by the way, those things that you said after the crash were pretty rough.’ And I would have been, like ‘Ricky, you’re totally right. That was over the top.’

Then, when the question was posed about whether they the two had talked, the answer would have been “yeah, we’re all fine.”

And that would have been the end of the story.

“I learned, after making that mistake a few times that it’s just easier to make the call,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “Sometimes you don’t even think you’re in the wrong. … But it’s just easier to go ahead and make the call, because that guy’s annoyed. It goes into the next week – and then, like (happened with) you guys, y’all had it play out in front of everybody at Kentucky.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.