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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Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report