Friday 5: Ty Dillon speaks from heart on racism, social injustice

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Ty Dillon listened to his heart. And it told him to speak up.

Dillon was among the first NASCAR drivers to comment on the death of George Floyd, beginning a lengthy Instagram post last Sunday by writing: “I never want to be seen as someone who is silent on the subject of racism and social injustice.”

He followed that with a video chat with Bubba Wallace on Instagram the following night. Wallace shared his feelings about recent incidents and his experiences of racism.

Dillon told media Thursday that he felt he had to speak up.

“I don’t care if I ever win a race or a championship in my life or lose every follower I have on Instagram or sponsor that I have, but when my children grow older and I take my last breath, I want to be sure that I was on the right side of what I felt is going on in history,” Dillon said. “And that means way more than acquiring fame and trophies and wins. Those things all fade away.

“But the impact you had on human beings in your life, the relationships last forever. So, that’s my heart behind this. I know some people might not feel the same as me and I understand that, as well. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I just wanted to stop, in the middle of my career, and say hey, this is where I stand. … I know at the end of the day, this is what I believe in and I’ll stand up for what I believe in.”

Dillon said listening to Wallace this week as they talked made him aware of experiences he never knew, including racist incidents at tracks in other series when Wallace was younger and encounters with police.

“I’ve known him my whole career and growing up and have seen him grow up as well, and to hear the stories about how Bubba was treated in some of those situations and knowing Bubba’s character and knowing him as a human being, that blew my mind because I would have never thought Bubba as a person, would have gone through anything like that,” Dillon said. “But, I think that’s just what it is.

“I think sometimes it’s easy for us who don’t know, as a white man or a white person, in general, we don’t know these stories. We don’t all the time ask the right questions to become informed.

“I think just hearing those stories impacted me in just saying that Bubba’s going through this, so is everyone else that looks like him, so why can’t we emphasize to learn more and hear the stories so that we can help make a change, have the right verbiage in our communities and in our groups, so that this problem doesn’t continue on.”

Since Dillon’s Instagram post, other drivers have spoken about social injustice, including seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who said he was for peaceful protesting. As NASCAR heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend as one of the only sports currently competing, Dillon was asked if there’s anything that can be done by NASCAR, its competitors and teams.

“I think obviously anything that’s said or expressed has to come from a true heart, so that does come from the individual,” Dillon said. “But I think it does take, as a group, saying that we don’t stand for it. And once we all know that we’re all on the same page as saying we don’t stand for it, we come together with a united voice saying that we don’t tolerate hate, racism, bigotry in our sport and that it’s not okay.

“There’s great conversations going on with the folks in our sport on this in planning a united front to make a statement. And I’m very proud of that.”

Dillon said the reaction to his comments on social media have been positive.

“I’ve had a really great reaction,” the 28-year-old said. “Obviously, there’s the few that don’t agree. But, I’m not looking for someone to agree with me. I’m just talking about how I feel on the subject. You can’t do anything in this day without making one person mad or somebody else happy, but this is who I am. I want to use my platform to talk about things that matter to me, whether it makes some people uncomfortable, or not.”

2. A fresh viewpoint

Nineteen-year-old Xfinity rookie Harrison Burton says the death of George Floyd, the ensuring protests and conversations about racism and social injustice have impacted him.

“It’s a tough thing for me as a young kid trying to figure things out in the NASCAR world and to be honest, I’ve always been so focused on racing,” Burton said Thursday in a media conference. “That’s been my whole life. The more we get into this year, it seems like the more I’m focusing on other things, focusing on the world as a whole.

Harrison Burton. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“You realize that racing isn’t the whole world. You get so caught up in ‘I got to win Atlanta next week. I got to go run as good as I can because this is my life, this what I’ve worked for, this is what I love to do.’ Which is all true, but there’s also the real world going on and so many issues out there as well that people are going through. I think there’s a lot of people that are looking introspectively and trying to see what they can do to help.”

Burton said he has.

“I think everyone has taken a look at themselves and said ‘How can I be better?’ and help this situation,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people do a lot of great things in the NASCAR community. I think the peaceful protests are great way to have people’s voices be heard and things like that. But what is really exciting also – along with that – is sports have a way of bringing people together.

“People rooting for a driver together or working on a team together or things like that bring people together from all different places in the world, which is amazing. I think that when you have the opportunity to be that sport that it’s kind of on us to help people in need – and you can help bring people together – that is an amazing opportunity.

“I’m excited for that as well. I think there’s a lot of great things that are going on. People that are reflecting personally on what they could do to be better, and I know there has been a lot of conversations amongst a lot of people about how can we make a positive change from this tragedy.”

Chase Briscoe also has posted on social media his feelings in this time.

“Our God says, ‘Love your neighbor like you love yourself,’ “ Briscoe said of his tweet on Tuesday. “And I think that’s the perfect way to put it. We all need more love. 

“That’s really the best way I can put it is we just need more love, and if everybody loved their neighbor like we loved ourselves, then it would be a lot better place.”

3. Minimum attendance requirement

As a publicly traded company, Dover Motorsports must make various documents available to the public, including sanction agreements with NASCAR for its races in 2021 at Dover International Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway.

The 2020 season marks the end of the five-year agreements NASCAR had with tracks, so 2021 provides a look at any changes to the sanctioning agreements.

In the sanctioning agreements for races at Dover and Nashville in 2021 is a minimum attendance clause.

It states: “Promoter will use best efforts to ensure a minimum spectator attendance in grandstand seating during the NASCAR Cup Race portion of the Competition of at least seventy percent (70%) of Capacity of the Facility.”

That isn’t 70% of all of a track’s seats but 70% of all seats that are available and not covered by signs or banners. The sanctioning agreement states: “Any seats or stands not included as part of the Capacity for the Event must be covered, removed or concealed in a first-class manner reasonably acceptable to (NASCAR) and the broadcast partner. Social zones, viewing platforms or other general areas without permanent seats, and enclosed suites will not count in calculating a Facility’s Capacity.”

The agreement also states that the track promoter must provide NASCAR within 15 days of the event a report that shows the number of tickets scanned for the event, the number of tickets sold or distributed for the event and the capacity of the event. The agreement states that NASCAR “agrees all such attendance reports provided by Promoter shall remain confidential and not shared with any third-party without the written consent of Promoter.”

4. Staggered shifts

With the need to maintain social distancing, including in race shops, bigger teams have gone to staggered shifts with employees to keep the work going in a safe way.

Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske, explained on a recent call with media what is taking place with his organization.

“We’ve chosen at this point to work in shifts rather than have our entire workforce together,” Cindric said. “You have to remember we have almost 500 people in the building on a normal basis, so we’ve really been working to maybe a third of the workforce, if you will, on any given day, split into shifts.

“Our shifts have been six-hour shifts, so we’ve been working from 6 (a.m.) to noon, and then we’ve taken a two-hour break for sanitization and so forth, and then we’ve worked then from 2 to 8 (p.m.) with a different shift. That’s been across the board through all of our series, and we’ll continue that process here for the foreseeable future. It helps us maybe take less risk with our people but also put ourselves in a position to where we’re not as vulnerable should someone get infected.”

5. Busy schedule ahead

With NASCAR seeking to catch up in races after a 10-week break because of the COVID-19 pandemic, upcoming weekends will offer plenty of racing for fans.

Seven of the next eight Saturdays feature doubleheaders, including a NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader.

Here are the Saturday doubleheaders:

June 6: Truck and Xfinity at Atlanta Motor Speedway

June 13: Truck and Xfinity at Homestead-Miami Speedway

June 20: Xfinity and ARCA at Talladega Superspeedway

June 27: Truck and Cup at Pocono Raceway

July 4: Xfinity and IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course

July 18: Truck and Xfinity at Texas Motor Speedway

July 25: Truck and Xfinity at Kansas Speedway

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