Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took ‘initiative’ to remove Mississippi state flag from firesuit

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has always been a “proud” native of Mississippi, which he made subtly known with the state’s flag placed on the belt of his firesuits.

But over the “past couple of weeks” and following discussions with Bubba Wallace, the second-place finisher in Monday’s race at Talladega said he’s removed the flag from his belt.

The reason? The design of Mississippi stage flag includes the Confederate flag, which NASCAR banned from being displayed at all races and events last week.

Mississippi State Flag. (Photo By Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images)

“We have talked a lot about the Mississippi flag,” Stenhouse said. “You never want to do anything to offend anybody on purpose … But it’s our state flag. I’ve always been proud to be from Mississippi and I’ve always supported or wore the flag on my belt for a long time. I’ve never really thought of it offending anybody, but obviously with everything that’s going on in the country (with) the rebel flag and learning really how it offends so many people, I don’t intend to do that.

“That was just a way for us to make sure myself and JTG (Daugherty Racing) and our partners that we wanted to take an initiative to take that off before we felt like somebody wanted us to have to … we just wanted to be proactive and make sure that we got that off and didn’t offend anybody going forward.”

Stenhouse was among the many drivers and crew members who escorted Wallace and his car to the end of pit road before Monday’s race in a show of solidarity a day after a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall at the track. Wallace, the only Black driver in the Cup Series, was behind the push to have NASCAR ban the Confederate flag at tracks. That was in the wake of social unrest and nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd while in police custody last month.
“It was cool to see everybody push Bubba’s car down to the front (of pit road),” Stenhouse said. “I’d say it was a Kevin (Harvick) and Jimmie (Johnson) idea that everybody jumped on board with and then to see all the crew members, follow suit was really cool. I think the coolest part for me was listening to the fans before the race, after the race, showing their support as well. I thought that was strong and really cool to see.”