NASCAR said Monday evening that an endorsement by its CEO Brian France of presidential candidate Donald Trump is a personal decision. It does not reflect and endorsement by the world’s largest stock car auto racing sanctioning body. Trump began a rally in Valdosta, Georgia at Valdosta State University Monday evening with appearances by the NASCAR CEO and several current and former drivers including Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Bill Elliott and his son Chase Elliott, whom Trump described as “the hottest young driver in the world.”
“I’m telling you,” Trump told his supporters. “If people who like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump they can cancel the election right nobody can win, nobody can win.”
The rally comes on the eve of the Super Tuesday when 11 states, including Georgia, will hold presidential primaries. A total of 595 delegates are at stake. Trump is currently the Republican frontrunner but has been criticized by many for comments for challenging President Obama’s standing as a natural-born American, calling for rounding up and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants and using various vulgar expressions to refer to women.
NASCAR has a history of being a sport with right wing leanings, however, in recent years NASCAR has tried to show its diversity and become more politically neutral. The sport began its Drive for Diversity program several years ago; a program that attempts to identify young talent who are monitories and help them into the sport. Also last July NASCAR announced that it would not hold its Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series banquets at the Trump National Doral Resort in Miami after Trump’s controversial comments on immigrants. Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis wrote an open letter declaring that neither he nor anyone from Camping World would participate in any event at a Trump resort “due to recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments from Donald Trump in regards to immigrants of the United States.”
In 2013 a driver in the lower tier Nationwide, now Xfinity series, received an indefinite suspension by NASCAR for violating the sport’s code of conduct. after uttering a racial slur. At the time, NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented on the incident.
“It’s really unfortunate that (the driver) chose to make a decision at that time to use that language,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t like it. There’s no room for that in my life. I’m sorry it happened to him and I hope he gets it sorted out. It looks bad on the sport and on other people.”
Monday night’s comments then came not from the sanctioning body but France and the select drivers in attendance as private citizens. This despite a press release on the Trump website.
“I am proud to receive the endorsement of such an iconic brand and a quality person such as Brian. Brian has a wonderful family and is an incredibly successful business person. I have great respect for Brian and I am grateful for his support and that of Bill Elliott, one of the best drivers in history, and active stock car racers, including his son Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Lee Regan,”
In a statement via email Monday evening, a NASCAR executive reiterated that the endorsement was private personal decision by Mr. France. NASCAR said there would be no further comment.