I hate night races. I always have. Just say that my history is that NASCAR Sprint Cup races are held on Sundays at 1 p.m. and lights, regardless of how they pretty they are, just don’t get it. It’s especially true in Spring, where rain is more a problem than maybe in July unless you are in Daytona or the desert. Texas was one of those races that somebody decided should be done in the dark despite the dangers.
In the end, we had a race that ended in the wee hours and many headed to bed before the end. I understand a night race at Bristol in August where it can be hot and sticky and maybe at Darlington on Labor Day when it can be the same, but even Texas in April is an iffy weather chance. So it was on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
The weather put the starting time nearly two hours later and America went to sleep, but not before the race, sponsored by Duck Dynasty’s own Robertson family, unloaded a shot to the heart of NASCAR’s diversity program. The patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson was given the opportunity of leading the opening prayer, which is a standard part of the NASCAR program. Robertson did well until he invoked a large dose of southern religion and seemingly politics.
Having grown up in what many would consider a rural, evangelical church, I understand, but I do not agree. NASCAR has tried so hard to make this sport diverse, allowing any person of color or creed to include everyone. Robertson set that back a bit and Brian France’s endorsement of Donald Trump hurt earlier. My father, a Baptist deacon, once said that there was no place in the church for politics and racism. That was in 1980 and look how far we’ve come.
Robertson’s comment in his prayer that, “America needs a Jesus man,” insulted Jews, agnostics, and mainline Christians. He insulted Democrats, Independents, Jews, and the majority of those with moderate views. Luckily, many did not see this. They were already asleep. NASCAR doesn’t need to alienate anyone in these days of low attendance and television ratings.
Regardless, it happened and it overshadowed a Kyle Busch win in his fourth-straight race, a sweep at the track, and a domination rarely seen. Though the race was pretty much a yawner, it wasn’t bad except for the late start (they tell me it was clear all day) and the later finish. Put all of it, the invocation, the seemingly horrible National Anthem, and the tepid racing, and it became a bad night for NASCAR. Who is to blame? Maybe it was Brian France opening the door to get our sport into politics or allowing controversial sponsors to get access. It continued to those who consider our sport as a unlearned redneck sport akin to something out of the last century.