Alvin Kamara: ‘There’s really more than what meets the eye’ with NASCAR

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New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara had always known about NASCAR.

But as the sport soldiered through its 2020 season during the coronavirus pandemic, he decided to give it a proper look.

“I really sat down and was like, ‘Alright, let me see what’s really going on, let me watch it and give it a chance – try to really understand it,'” the four-time Pro Bowler told reporters on Friday.

“I’m really listening to what they’re talking about – and I realized that there’s really more than what meets the eye when it comes to NASCAR.”

From there, Kamara secured an invite to attend last June’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway – partly to support Bubba Wallace in the wake of NASCAR’s ban of the Confederate flag, and partly to discover the sport as a whole.

Now, over eight months later, he’s about to become more than just a fan.

His juice bar chain, “The Big Squeezy,” is sponsoring the No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet for rookie driver Ryan Vargas in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the road course at Daytona International Speedway.

The deal was announced Wednesday – two days after Vargas asked for help on social media in securing a sponsor for this weekend.

Kamara found out about Vargas’ situation after attending last weekend’s Daytona 500, and reached out to Vargas. Following some messages back and forth, Kamara was put in touch with JD Motorsports to work out the details.

His entrance in the sport marks another milestone of sorts for NASCAR’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Basketball icon Michael Jordan is now one of Wallace’s bosses for the new 23XI Racing team, while musician Pitbull is a co-owner for the new Trackhouse Racing team and driver Daniel Suarez.

From Kamara’s perspective, he says that in the Black community, NASCAR is now “more on our radar” thanks to Wallace’s exploits and the Confederate flag ban.

He’s keen on helping to attract more Black fans to the sport and put aside any preconceptions about the sport, like he had.

“It’s one of those things where I feel like – I don’t think this was a place where a lot of us felt comfortable being,” he explained. “I had a perception of what NASCAR was before I was involved. You see that (Confederate) flag, you see the scope of what’s going on … One bad apple spoils the bunch. You see certain things and you’re like, ‘No, that’s not anywhere I need to be at.’

“But fast forward, and I’m getting involved and I’m seeing what’s going on, seeing the leadership from the top to the bottom – starting with upper personnel, talking to (NASCAR President) Steve (Phelps) and his staff and his crew. Everybody is so open and welcoming. At first, I had some withdrawal from it. Even when I went to (Homestead), I was, ‘Alright, let me just stay on my side – I’ll introduce (myself).’

“But everybody was so welcoming: ‘Man, we love that you’re here! Are you really interested?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ We got a conversation going and flowing, I’m meeting fans, interacting with people, and I’m like ‘Oh, this is a safe space. This is not what I thought it was. I was pleasantly surprised.'”

Vargas, a 20-year-old Hispanic driver from La Mirada, California, is well aware of the sport’s drive to bring more minorities into the fold.

He was part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity development program in 2018, and says that the sport has always “welcomed (him) with open arms.”

Now, he’s hopeful that Kamara’s involvement will continue the positive momentum.

“To see just where the sport is going in terms of its diversity efforts, I mean, it’s incredible,” said Vargas, who’s competing for Xfinity Series rookie of the year honors. “You see a lot of people back drivers like Bubba (Wallace). You see a lot of people back drivers like Daniel Suárez. You see people starting to back drivers like me.

“It takes a lot for people to start believing in each driver. For me, last year, I only ran nine races. The other races, I was a tire guy, a road crew guy. It takes a lot of believing in me. For people like Alvin to jump on board and support this team and support myself, it goes a lot farther than many people think.”

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.