NASCAR reforming? – Commentary by Frank Gillispie

If things work out this weekend, I will be able to become a NASCAR fan once again. I have boycotted all things NASCAR for the past several years because that organization refused to allow The Sons of Confederate Veterans to sponsor a car in one of their sanctioned races. That is, hopefully, about to change.

According to a report running in SCV notices, a car bearing the Sons of Confederate Veterans logo will run in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 in Daytona on February 7 2009. The race will be televised by the Speed Channel at 4:00 p.m. This will be an ARCA race that is part of Speed Week in Daytona leading up to the Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s refusal to allow the original car to run was followed up by a ban on all displays of the Confederate Battle Flag at any NASCAR events. No flags, bumper stickers, clothing or other material containing the Battle Flag were allowed. They went as far as to threaten firing anyone who displayed any Confederate icon in any way.

In October. 2005 I published an article entitled NASCAR’S BRIAN FRANCE BETRAYS THE SOUTH. In the article, which appeared in the Madison County Journal, I objected strongly to this action and called for a boycott of all things NASCAR until they relented and allowed Southern Pride to return to their events. That article received the greatest response of anything I have ever written. It was referenced, quoted or reprinted in its entirety by sports writers and internet pages throughout the south. My e-mail box was full of support for my position.

NASCAR attempted to ban southern heritage in an effort to expand from a regional sport to one of international importance. It didn’t work. In recent years, NASCAR has fallen on hard times. Their TV audiences have declined. Ticket sales are down. They are having trouble finding sponsors for their cars. All this was happening before the current economic problems became apparent.

Stock car racing is, after all, a Southern sport. It developed from the county fair races featuring former moonshine cars and drivers. Its early champions were all Southerners. And the stands at every race was filled with fans singing Dixie and waving rebel flags. When Brian France attempted to ban these Southern symbols, he insulted the very people who had given NASCAR it success.

Now NASCAR has a chance to return to its roots. I hope the decision sticks. But it is still possible that after all the effort to prepare the car and find a team and driver to race it. NASCAR still can, and may, make the same decision as before. I will not be surprised. Hopefully, they realize their mistake and the car will be allowed to run in Daytona next Saturday.

I plan to watch my first NASCAR sponsored race on TV in years. If the SCV car is in the race, I will rejoin their fan base. If not, my boycott will continue.

That is the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 in Daytona on February 7, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on the Speed Channel. NASCAR has a chance to win back a lot of Southern Heritage viewers. I hope they don’t mess it up.

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