Brad Daugherty: ‘It’s incumbent upon us at NASCAR to do better’

3 Comments

Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, said NASCAR is going in the right direction in its battle against racial bias and systemic inequality — but there is still more work to be done.

“It’s incumbent upon us at NASCAR to do better,” Daugherty said in a media teleconference Thursday afternoon. “And I’m telling you, we’ve got the cats that want to do better.”

Daugherty applauded NASCAR for its efforts to eliminate bias and racism, including banning the Confederate flag from being displayed at racetracks, as well as its support of Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver in the sport.

“The actions that have been taken initially are remarkable,” Daugherty said. “By standing up, removing obstacles for people of color from some of the events, I think that is paramount.

“The diversity program NASCAR has, one I helped co-found, continues to evolve. So there needs to be more resources for that program. We need to encourage more fan participation, which I think will be a lot easier to do, seeing that we don’t have the Confederate flags and those types of things in our midst.

“I’ve always talked about bringing more for young kids to the racetrack of color, letting them come, see, touch and feel and being around these race cars. I think as NASCAR continues to evolve as a company and as a culture, I think just having open arms and creating more opportunity and more access to the sport is what it’s really about.

“We need to create more avenues of access to the sport. We need to encourage more people to come, enjoy what goes on on race weekend. Once you get the masses there and see race cars going 200 mph, six inches apart, who’s not going to be hooked?”

Daugherty also addressed how NASCAR handled the discovery of a noose found in Wallace’s garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. The incident led to an FBI investigation that eventually disproved the incident as a hate crime, saying that it was just a knot that had been placed on the door late last year to facilitate lifting and closing.

“I’m glad NASCAR reacted the way they did,” Daugherty said. “No doubt about it swiftly, fairly, but with a heavy hand. I think that was needed. But I said that day it doesn’t matter, we’re going forward and any distractions (like) people flying the flag over the racetrack and outside, man, good luck to you, do what you got to do.

“Then when it was found to not be something that was placed there, something that had been there for a while, I was relieved. We have so much in our world that’s so politicized, it’s awful. It’s a tough time being in our country because everything is left or right and people’s reactions I thought were just really bad, because everyone in the media really wants something to be so significant and such a problem. I thought it was great for our sport. I think it showed we overreacted just a little bit, like we should have, and found out that it wasn’t true. So we can push that aside and it doesn’t matter and we move on.”

Daugherty said he was brought to tears when the entire NASCAR garage followed Bubba Wallace and his race car onto pit road prior to Monday’s rescheduled Cup race.

“It was a significant moment for me and I’ve been in the sport for 30 years,” Daugherty said. “You always wonder who was on board in anything, any movement. And when you see a movement like this, you’re looking through that garage area and you’re looking at the faces and 99% of those faces are or not the same as mine or Bubba’s, you wonder who really has your back?

“… When I looked up and saw those guys pushing that race car out, it brought tears to my eyes because it made me realize that when I walk into that garage area, that’s my home, I’m welcome there.”

Daugherty concedes that NASCAR and society still have a ways to go to see true equality both on and off the racetrack.

“I get a lot of uneducated comments all the time,” Daugherty said. “And I think when we have something like this out front and the world can see, then you have to pay attention. You can’t just broad brush it and put us in this box.

“We can no longer be put in that box that we’ve been in for the past 60 years. Now you have to look at this sport and you can be cynical, I don’t have a problem with that or pessimistic, I think that’s fair. But you have to pay attention.”

Daugherty revealed that his team’s No. 37 Chevrolet Camaro, driven by Ryan Preece, will carry a special paint scheme for this weekend’s Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway. The paint scheme will highlight an initiative – PG.com/TakeOnRace – that Daugherty said “will create the opportunity for communication based on eliminating inequality, racism, bias and insensitivity.”

“When I saw The King (Richard Petty) walking down the pit road there (with Wallace and hundreds of other Cup team members), it warmed my heart because he’s from a different genre, different generation and expectations probably wouldn’t be as high for him as it should be or would be for me,” Daugherty said. “But when I saw him walking down, I saw his statement (about the noose). I said, ‘Man, we’re rolling.’

“So the world saw that and we’re in a better place today in NASCAR than we were two weeks ago and I’m really excited about the future. I’m happy and I’m very proud to be a part of this organization.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski