Chase Elliott claimed the checkered flag at Wednesday’s NASCAR All-Star Race in Tennessee, which was moved from its usual home site in Charlotte to accommodate fans. Unfortunately, Elliott’s win at Bristol Motor Speedway was marred by further controversy relating to the sport’s recent ban on Confederate flags.
A plane flew a Confederate flag over the track before Wednesday night's race while also displaying a banner in support of Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization headquartered in Columbia, Tennessee. SCV pulled a similar stunt at June’s Geico 500, flying a banner reading, “Defund NASCAR” over Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. According to Tom Gatto of Sporting News, a Confederate display adjacent to a flag promoting Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection bid was also spotted under a vendor tent outside the speedway Wednesday night.
The president has been openly critical of NASCAR’s ban on Confederate flags and also went on a Twitter rant against driver Bubba Wallace, who made headlines when a noose was found in his garage last month. Trump called on Wallace to apologize while dismissing the incident (which prompted an FBI investigation) as a hoax.
NASCAR finally distancing itself from Confederate imagery associated with bigotry and prejudice against African Americans was long overdue, though a significant faction of the sport’s fan base has not embraced that decision.
Wednesday's showcase in Bristol drew the largest crowd of any American sporting event since the COVID-19 outbreak with 20,000 fans in attendance. The half-mile track has a capacity of over 140,000, though only 30,000 tickets were made available in an effort to promote social distancing. The win was Elliott’s second of the year following his triumph at the Alsco Uniforms 500 in Charlotte back in May.