NASCAR driver Ray Ciccarelli, a part-time driver in NASCAR’s pickup truck division, said in a now-deleted Facebook post published Wednesday that he would quit over the sport’s new policy banning Confederate flags.
“Well its been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction Nascar is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over,” Ciccarelli said in a post to his now-deactivated account. “i don't believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love. I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn't make them a racist all you are doing is f---ing one group to cater to another and i ain't spend the money we are to participate in any political BS!! So everything is for SALE!! [sic]”
Ciccarelli, 50, has run 18 races in NASCAR’s Gandar RV & Outdoor Truck Series since 2017. He’s never won a race in the series; his best result in the series was a 9th-place finish at Michigan Motor Speedway last August.
NASCAR said in a statement on Wednesday that the flag would be banned at its events from now on.
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” the company said. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
NASCAR’s move comes in the wake of weeks of protests against police brutality and racism that have taken on global significance. Bubba Wallace, currently the NASCAR Cup Series’ only Black driver and one of most successful in the history of the sport, called for the sport to officially ban the flags. (NASCAR began asking fans not to bring them following the Mother Emanuel AME church massacre in Charleston in 2015.)
“No one should have to feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” Wallace told CNN earlier this week. “So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.” Since the decision was made, television ratings for a Wednesday night race aired were up 104 percent over a comparable race last season, according to a Fox Sports executive.
On Thursday, Ciccarelli told NASCAR blogger Toby Christie that he hadn’t slept and his family had been attacked on social media since he posted his statement, but that he intends to finish out the season. He also said he thought his words were misconstrued.
“I regret how it was misconstrued,” Ciccarelli said. “I don’t regret my feelings of believing in the national anthem and standing. I don’t like the fact that I was misconstrued about defending the Confederate flag. Because in no way shape or form was I defending the Confederate flag.”
“I feel everybody has a right to their opinion. And that was my opinion,” he added. “I believe people can kneel, and protest and do what they love and support and all that. I wasn’t trying to offend anybody. That’s not something that I wanted to do in any shape or form.”
Cover: Ray Ciccarelli, CMI Motorsports, Chevrolet Silverado CMI Motorsports during practice for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series TruNorth Global 250 race at Martinsville Speedway, Friday, March. 22, 2019, in Martinsville, VA. (AP Photo/NKP, Nigel Kinrade)