NASCAR Acknowledges Social Unrest in America Prior to Atlanta Race

HAMPTON, GEORGIA - JUNE 07: The field pauses on the front stretch for a moment of listening in reflection of recent social unrest prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 07, 2020 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR took time Sunday to recognize the civil unrest taking place across the nation. Protests across the country have erupted since the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta the field was stopped along the frontstretch and the engines were silenced.  Crew members stood on the pit wall as a message from NASCAR president Steve Phelps was shown on the Fox broadcast.

“Thank you for your time,” Phelps said. “Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard. The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better. The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice. We ask our drivers … and all our fans to join us in this mission, to take a moment of reflection, to acknowledge that we must do better as a sport, and join us as we now pause and take time to listen.”

Then as the field rolled off to begin the race, a video featuring  a number of top drivers vowing to “listen and learn” was aired.

The video includes seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s top series. Many drivers had already posted it on their social media accounts.

“The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others in the Black community are heartbreaking and can no longer be ignored,” the message said.  “We are committed to listening with empathy and with an open heart to better educate ourselves. We will use this education to advocate for change in our nation, our communities and most importantly, in our own homes. Even after the headlines go away.”

Greg Engle