Written by Kyle Dawson, Photo Editor
For someone who is so far right wing, Donald Trump brought out some people who love to go left at his rally at the Complex last Monday.
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France attended the rally in support of Trump as well as hall of fame driver Bill Elliott and his son and current driver Chase Elliott along with other current drivers Ryan Newman and David Ragan. However, not all NASCAR fans are Trump fans.
These endorsements come at a confusing time as NASCAR has recently taken some steps to be more progressive such as begging fans not to display Confederate flags, and the Drive for Diversity program and NASCAR Green, which is a program for environmental conservation.
Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis was not happy with France’s support for Trump, but he said Camping World would not pull their sponsorship of NASCAR’s third tier series because NASCAR is bigger than Brian France.
It is odd that the CEO of NASCAR would back a presidential candidate whose views on political correctness, diversity and climate change are the exact opposite of the beliefs behind NASCAR’s recent forward thinking programs.
France and Bill Elliott were the most composed of the NASCAR supporters, as the other three had just come from a 500 mile race in Atlanta on Sunday. Chase Elliott, in particular, seemed to be just repeating his father’s opinions with an obedient tone.
The appearances seemed thrown together, as Trump didn’t even pronounce David Ragan’s name correctly, and there was a lack of security around the NASCAR superstars when they went to sit in the stands.
The New York City billionaire really played to the crowd as Georgia born Bill Elliott has won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver award a record 16 times, and his son recently took over for four time champion Jeff Gordon.
Trump was going after the stereotypical NASCAR fan during his trip to the Deep South, and it may have worked, as Trump won Lowndes County on Super Tuesday by a large margin. However, the stereotypical NASCAR fan is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
With the Drive for Diversity program, NASCAR is recruiting drivers from other countries, including Mexico, which also brings in more diverse fans. Also, NASCAR is broadcast in over twenty countries including Mexico, Germany and France.
NASCAR has taken a step back in recruiting these new, forward thinking fans from other countries as well as the USA with the endorsement of Trump, who essentially wants to build a wall in front of NASCAR’s diversity plan.
A concern sponsors of the drivers attending the rally should have is that their teams may lose fans because of the drivers’ now public political affiliation. NASCAR, unlike most other sports, is very individual driven. Fans often support drivers over teams, and learning that their favorite driver supports the candidate who is a racist, sexist advocate for banning minorities and disregarding climate change could cause fans to find another favorite driver. For example: me.