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

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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.”

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Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.