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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NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.

Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”

Mike Wallace’s appeal of indefinite suspension denied

NASCAR suspends Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace‘s indefinite suspension by NASCAR was upheld by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday.

Wallace, who has made three Xfinity Series starts this season, was suspended Sept. 10 for violating Sections 12.1; 12.8; 12.8.1.e of the rule book.

According to the rulebook, a violation of section 12.8.1.e is any “Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”

As part of the suspension, Wallace is required by NASCAR to attend sensitivity training.

The three-member appeals panel was made up of Dixon Johnston, Bill Lester and Kevin Whitaker.

Wallace has the right to appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

Wallace wrote the following on Facebook shortly after his suspension was originally announced:

“You know as I fly across the United States today I’m ready various people’s political views and I have to say a famous four star Military General that I spent time with in the MidEast told me Mike let me give you some advice don’t ever get in a conversation about politics or religion unless you are really smart. I said why do you say that comment His response it’s like being balanced on a single edge razor blade if you slip you will get cut!

Think about that before we all make foolish uneducated post! Moral of this story is most of use just repeat what we have heard we really don’t know.
Have a great positive day!”

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

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Following months of speaking out in support of racial justice and inclusion in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace‘s work has been recognized by The Musial Awards.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has been selected as the recipient of its Award for Extraordinary Character.

The award honors “an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship.”

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University in St. Louis – is named after Stan Musial, a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player. St. Louis is also the home to one of Wallace’s sponsors, World Wide Technology.

More: Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in May, the 26-year-old Wallace has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway in June.

“Bubba Wallace exemplifies what the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is all about,” Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which produces the Musial Awards, said in a press release. “He has overcome much to be where he is, and he has courageously stepped forward to take an important stand for change. He is most deserving of an award that stands for sportsmanship and character, and is named for Stan Musial, whose own actions promoted racial acceptance and unity.”

Wallace joins baseball legend Hank Aaron as a 2020 Musial Awards honoree. Aaron is receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The Musial Awards will air nationally on CBS on Saturday, Dec. 26.

After three full-time seasons in Cup racing for RPM, it was announced earlier this week that Wallace would compete in 2021 for a Cup team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan.