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NASCAR Begins to Distance Itself from its Southern Heritage

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By Dr. Matthew Williams |

NASCAR has always had a reputation of being a rebellious redneck sport. It is a sport that was founded around bootleggers and moonshiners in the South and is intertwined with Southern Heritage. The sport has had a reputation of fans flying the Confederate Battle Flag, letting their hair down, and partying hard. They use Southern sayings like “American by Birth” & “Southern by the Grace of God”. They also have a very strong Southern belief that there are two days that you should never race on, Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday.

These past few years, NASCAR has decided to distance itself from its Southern Heritage and become more of a premier sport like it had been in the 1990s and early 2000s. NASCAR looked at three areas to bring change to the sport in hopes they could get back to being the premier sport. The areas that NASCAR has addressed were the Confederate Battle Flag, Mother’s Day, and Easter Sunday.

In June 2020 amid calls to ban the Confederate Battle Flag, NASCAR announced that the Confederate Battle Flag would be completely banned from all NASCAR tracks, events, and properties. NASCAR felt that it needed to create a more inclusive environment in which all fans would feel welcome. At the same time, NASCAR was feeling pressure from the Southern fans’ stance that the Confederate Battle Flag was part of their NASCAR sport and their Southern Heritage.

NASCAR has had a long-standing tradition that they would avoid scheduling a race on Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday.  Southerners have a strong belief that Mother’s Day is a day to honor your mother, spend time with her, and thank her for all that she has done for you.  Although NASCAR has raced on Mother’s Day weekend, they have not raced on a Sunday which is Mother’s Day. The last time NASCAR raced on Mother’s Day was in 2007 and was caused by weather. In 2021 NASCAR decided to schedule the Darlington Race on Mother’s Day and again have scheduled the same race on Mother’s Day in 2022.

NASCAR has always stayed away from scheduling a race on Easter Sunday, feeling that not racing on Easter Sunday would allow teams, along with fans, to gather with family, and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The last time NASCAR raced on Easter Sunday was in 1989 and it was a makeup race. In 2022 NASCAR is scheduled to race on Easter Sunday, and it will be a night race and will be televised in primetime.

Will the new changes that NASCAR has incorporated in the sport while distancing itself from its Southern Heritage, bring NASCAR back to a premier sport again? Only time will tell?

Dr. Matthew Williams is an Associate Professor of Sport Management at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise and is an avid NASCAR fan.

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