Ty Dil­lon leads NASCAR pack with call for so­cial change

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - RACING REPORT - Randy Hall­man Randy Hall­man, a vet­eran NASCAR writer, is re­tired from the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch. Email him at fullthrot­tlerh@gmail.com and fol­low him on Twit­ter @RandyLHall­man.

You first, Ty Dil­lon. “I never want to be seen as some­one who is silent on the sub­ject of racism and so­cial in­jus­tice,” Dil­lon writes in a so­cial me­dia post.

“My heart is in pain for my broth­ers and sis­ters in the black com­mu­nity, the fam­ily of Ge­orge Floyd, and the many other fam­i­lies who have been af­fected by racism and hate.”

Dil­lon, in case you didn’t know, is a 28-year-old NASCAR driver — white, as nearly all NASCAR driv­ers are — with a hand­ful of wins in the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lower-level se­ries, zero wins and mid­dle-of-the-pack statis­tics driv­ing for a mid­dle-of-thep­ack team in the elite Cup Se­ries.

Dil­lon is also the grand­son of Richard Chil­dress, the Hall of Fame owner of a stronger Cup Se­ries team that, dur­ing the height of the Colin Kaeper­nick con­tro­versy, made a point of say­ing any em­ployee of his who took a knee dur­ing the na­tional an­them would be out of a job.

So, it’s not hard to see why Dil­lon’s so­cial-me­dia open­ing line dis­pelled the no­tion that he might re­main silent on the sub­ject.

In­deed, many won­dered if NASCAR and its par­tic­i­pants would zip their mouths and just keep rac­ing while the coun­try was hor­ri­fied by the video of the killing of Ge­orge Floyd and torn by the chaotic protests that raged in the video’s af­ter­math.

Af­ter all, NASCAR is on a roll, tak­ing the lead as a ma­jor sport able to re­sume live ac­tion, re­gain­ing its swag­ger with thrilling races, post­ing ro­bust view­er­ship num­bers.

Sun­day’s race at Bristol was the per­fect ex­am­ple. It was a barn­burner from the green flag to Brad Ke­selowski’s dra­matic drive un­der the check­ers. Just un­der 3 mil­lion view­ers tuned in — the big­gest au­di­ence since 2017 for a race on Fox’s sports ca­ble arm, FS1.

As it turns out, the on-air suc­cess of NASCAR’s empty-grand­stands events did not de­ter some par­tic­i­pants, or NASCAR it­self, from speak­ing out on so­cial me­dia and in in­ter­views.

Here are a few ex­am­ples, some of them ex­cerpts.

Eric Nyquist, NASCAR’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent, re­sponded to Dil­lon, tweet­ing,

OPIN­ION “Thank you for be­ing a leader.”

Ryan Blaney in a post with a shared ren­der­ing of Floyd and the slo­gan #jus­tice­forFloyd: “…we all have to stand to­gether on what’s right and wrong. What hap­pened to Mr. Floyd and all oth­ers who have been op­pressed has sick­ened me. I sup­port the change that needs to hap­pen in this coun­try and around the world.”

Daniel Suárez, Mex­i­can and NASCAR’s only for­eign-born driver: “I feel pain, dis­ap­point­ment and anger every time I see the hor­ri­ble video of Ge­orge Floyd plead­ing for his life. He de­served bet­ter, black peo­ple de­serve bet­ter, hu­man­ity de­serves bet­ter .... When will racism and prej­u­dice stop?”

Tyler Red­dick, a rookie Cup driver, af­ter retweet­ing Suárez’s post: “I want to let every­one know out there, I hurt with you and I stand with you.” Fol­lowed by a hash­tag se­ries — #Black­LivesMat­ter #ICan­tBreathe #Ge­orgeFloyd #Jus­tice­ForFloyd #Sys­tem­at­icOp­pres­sion

Dar­rell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., the only ac­tive black Cup driver, in a lengthy In­sta­gram con­ver­sa­tion with Dil­lon: “I don’t be­lieve that the vi­o­lent ri­ots and loot­ing is the way to go . ... It’s not solv­ing any­thing . ... We have been cry­ing out for help for so many years, right? Noth­ing’s hap­pened . ... A tweet from who­ever, and it goes quiet, that’s it.”

Wallace then of­fers his hope.

“The more voices, the bet­ter . ... It takes all of us . ... lt’s time to stand up for what’s right.”

Jim­mie John­son, a seven-time Cup cham­pion, when asked in an NBC in­ter­view af­ter Sun­day’s race about protests: “The cir­cum­stances are just crazy and un­ac­cept­able. I am for protest­ing, peace­ful protest­ing. And I hope there’s more of that tonight . ... The mes­sage needs to be clear, but I think be­ing peace­ful is re­ally the right way to send the mes­sage here.”

Dale Earn­hardt Jr., TV com­men­ta­tor and for­mer peren­nial most popular driver: “Black Lives Mat­ter. They are hurt­ing and up­set and it’s time for me to lis­ten. Ri­ots, vi­o­lence, and loot­ing is bad and needs to stop.”

NASCAR, in a state­ment: “For us to heal and move for­ward as a na­tion, we all need to lis­ten more and be united in the stand against racism, ha­tred and sense­less vi­o­lence and loss of life, and we must all hold our­selves ac­count­able to driv­ing pos­i­tive change . ... We must do bet­ter and our com­mit­ment to pro­mot­ing equal­ity and in­clu­sion con­tin­ues and will never wa­ver.”

Since 2004, NASCAR has had an of­fi­cial Drive for Di­ver­sity pro­gram, en­cour­ag­ing mi­nor­ity driv­ers and other par­tic­i­pants. To those of us who have reg­u­larly walked the NASCAR track garages since the 1970s, the change is vis­i­ble, par­tic­u­larly among crew mem­bers and of­fi­cials.

But the fact that Wallace re­mains a solo act as a black driver high­lights the slow pace of that change, and NASCAR has been crit­i­cized for that pace. Ac­knowl­edg­ing that it “must do bet­ter,” the sanc­tion­ing body makes a prom­ise and in­vites scru­tiny.

You can judge for your­self whether the driv­ers and the or­ga­ni­za­tion have been bold enough. As for me, I am en­cour­aged most by the NASCAR of­fi­cial’s six-word praise of Dil­lon for his lead­er­ship. The per­sonal na­ture of that tweet points to­ward a wel­come path.

And, as one who has watched the sport since NASCAR’s for­ma­tive years, among what I con­sider an in­ter­est­ing cur­rent cast of driv­ers, I’m adding a new fa­vorite — Ty Dil­lon.

In his so­cial-me­dia state­ment, Dil­lon says in part, “Around the coun­try, a lot of my broth­ers and sis­ters are cur­rently hurt deeply and have been for hun­dreds of years without change. I want to be part of the gen­er­a­tion that for­ever changes this nar­ra­tive.”

He ex­tols his Chris­tian faith and adds, “No hu­man de­serves to be op­pressed, hated or killed be­cause of their skin color. To­gether, we can take mean­ing­ful ac­tion that can change our na­tion and put an end to racism and so­cial in­jus­tice.”

From your post to God’s lap­top, Ty.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ty Dil­lon is one of sev­eral NASCAR driv­ers — and the or­ga­ni­za­tion it­self — to call for so­cial change fol­low­ing Ge­orge Floyd’s death last week.

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