Truex wins at Martinsville on historic day for NASCAR

Historic Day for NASCAR
MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - JUNE 10: Cars race during the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on June 10, 2020 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

While 75 percent 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.

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.

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.

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.

Eventually, the pressure — both externally and from within — grew too powerful to ignore, and NASCAR said no more.

DARLINGTON, SC – MAY 13: A view of a Confederate flag during the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Dodge Avenger 500 on May 13, 2007 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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 organization 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.

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I've been a fan of NASCAR since I was five years old. My passion for it, and auto racing in general, inspired me to pursue a career in it. For four years, I covered NASCAR and IndyCar for SpeedwayMedia.com. I'm currently studying at the University of Tennessee to pursue a career in sports writing. As a student at the University of Tennessee, and a native of Knoxville, Tenn., I'm a diehard fan of Tennessee Volunteers football. If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me one day, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Nashville Predators and the NFL. Outside of sports, I watch anime, read manga and watch a lot of films.

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