While 75% of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable finished off the lead lap, Martin Truex Jr. recovered from a commitment line violation to take the checkered flag, Wednesday, at Martinsville Speedway.
His 27th career Cup Series victory, however, took a back seat to news from the big NASCAR office in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Martin Truex Jr. wins at Martinsville on historic day for NASCAR
A few hours before the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 went green, NASCAR took a step that I never thought it’d have the guts to do.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 10, 2020
Anyone who’s astute in all things NASCAR knows how Earth-shattering this is.
Pull into a track in the South and it wouldn’t take you long to spot one or hundreds of Stars and Bars flying in the infield, mixed in with American flags and Dale Earnhardt flags. Some people flew a Confederate flag with an Earnhardt No. 3 emblazoned on it, without understanding the irony of it.
A few words from Dale Earnhardts Senior and Junior on the Confederate flag, from a book I could recommend: pic.twitter.com/WaUDWfXPdm
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) June 10, 2020
Some tracks, it was more prevalent than others. You’d be hard-pressed to not find one flying at Darlington Raceway, a track that once had a race weekend called the Rebel 500 that fell on Confederate Memorial Day weekend in South Carolina.
Likewise, pull into the infield at Talladega Superspeedway, it wouldn’t take long to spot the Stars and Bars flying from the sea of motorhomes.
While not as prevalent outside the South, it wasn’t uncommon to see the Confederate flag fly in the infields across the United States.
It was ingrained in the culture of NASCAR, whether or not the big wigs in Daytona wanted it; and most of them didn’t, as former NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France, discussed his distaste of the Confederate flag on multiple occasions.
To NASCAR’s credit, it had long since banned the flag from usage in any official capacity; be it tracks, teams or NASCAR officials. There was never a Confederate flag flying on top of the haulers in the garage, and hadn’t been since the 1970s.
In the short term, this will probably alienate long-time core fans and cause a dip in NASCAR’s long-fledgling TV ratings.
In the long-term, however, it was a much needed move to keep NASCAR palatable to an American culture that’s turned against the Confederate flag in the last few years, following the racially-motivated Charleston church shooting five years ago.
Whether or not this translates to a resurgence in TV ratings for NASCAR remains to be seen.
Regardless, for a few hours, Wednesday, the league was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter. It was a historic day for NASCAR.
Anecdotally, we can also point to New Orleans Saints — and former Tennessee Volunteers — running back, Alvin Kamara, as proof that this has opened new doors for NASCAR.
He and others like him tuned in for the first time and watched Truex win back to back races at NASCAR’s last charter track.