Jimmie Johnson: Athletes have ‘a right to share our opinion’


Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson says athletes have “a right to share our opinion” on social matters instead of sticking to sports as some would suggest.

Athletes have exerted greater power this year in speaking out against social injustices and acting upon those matters. The Milwaukee Bucks refused to leave the locker room for their NBA playoff game Wednesday night to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The action by the Bucks sparked a reaction throughout the sports world. The NBA, WNBA did not play Thursday and are not playing Friday. Some Major League Baseball games were not played this week. The NHL playoffs were not held Thursday and Friday. MLS games were postponed. 

MORE: Not by choice, but by necessity: Activism halts sports world 

Johnson said Friday that drivers have had some conversations with each other and NASCAR about a response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Cup Series races Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

“I know many, including myself, are extremely disturbed from what we saw in Kenosha,” Johnson said.

Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver competing in the Cup Series, stated in a series of tweets Thursday night that by NASCAR “continuing to race this weekend DOES NOT mean we are stepping down and turning away from the dark and evil acts that have taken place over our nation.”

Asked Friday about how athletes have become more vocal and active in social matters, Johnson gave this response:

“These are changing times. I know many don’t want to see the opinions of the athletes and they want the sport to be the sport and the athletes just to be quiet. I think there’s been so much going on over a long, long period of time and various topics as well. We have an opinion. Athletes have an opinion. We have a right to share our opinion.

“I think with age I’ve become more comfortable to share my opinion. As I learn more about various issues, my own emotions come into play and I’m led to have different conversations or use my platforms in a different way to focus our foundation and some of the work it does in a different direction.

“We all have our own journey with it all. I think we definitely all have that right and should not be judged to have that right. There are just changing times. A big election year and a lot of different opinions. My opinion, a country more divided than I’ve ever seen or experienced in my lifetime. So it’s an important time in everyone’s life right now.

“I feel like the younger generation is watching and learning and I’m very encouraged by watching my kids and the way our school is teaching them to learn to have an opinion, to really educate themselves on various topics.

“At times I’m discouraged by where we sit as a nation and as a world and just how divided we all are, but then when I see my kids and their questions and their genuine concern about the future of  our country, our environment of racial inequality issues, gender related issues, I do become encouraged. To hear a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old weigh in on some conversations really has blown my mind.

“I do have some optimism for the future. Clearly, it’s a critical point in time right now for us all. It’s a big topic in a journey that is not going to resolve any time soon for generations to come.”

Tyler Reddick, who was among the first Cup drivers to be outspoken on social media about racial injustices this year, also shared his opinion about athletes playing a larger role in social and racial matters.

“It’s important for us as athletes, kind of like what Jimmie said earlier, some people feel like we just need to stick to sports and talk sports and live and breathe it, but we are human beings,” Reddick said. “It’s our right to share how we feel about certain things. For me, the issues have been going on are things that we need to keep improving upon. It’s great to see athletes and individuals come together like they have and really take a stand for something like that.

“For us in NASCAR, I can’t speak for NASCAR I guess, but we will continue to search and figure out our way of continuing to go down that path. We really did a lot of good things to be inclusive as we kind of got our year back rolling and we continue to go down this path this year. We’ve taken a lot of the steps that are good and in the right direction.

“I’m encouraged that we’ve been going down that path and I’m excited to see where that path continues to take us. It’s truly moving to see those athletes and individuals stand up for that, take that stand. There’s more to life than sports. There always will be.”

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)


Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings