Aric Almirola on pole for Saturday’s Cup race at Pocono- NBC Sports

Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, said NASCAR is going in the right direction in its battle against racial bias and systemic inequality, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“It is up to us in NASCAR to do better,” Daugherty said in a media conference call Thursday afternoon. “And I tell you, we have cats that want to do better.”

Daugherty applauded NASCAR for its efforts to eliminate prejudice and racism, including banning the Confederate flag from being displayed on racetracks, as well as its support for Bubba Wallace, the only full-time black driver in the sport.

“The actions that have been taken initially are remarkable,” said Daugherty. “As I stand up and remove obstacles for people of color from some of the events, I think it’s paramount.

“NASCAR’s diversity program, one that I co-founded, continues to evolve. Therefore, there should be more resources for that program. We need to encourage more fan participation, which I think will be much easier to do as we don’t have the Confederate flags and that sort of thing in our midst.

“I’ve always talked about bringing more for young children to the colored race track, letting them come, see, touch and feel and be close to these race cars. I think as NASCAR continues to evolve as a company and as a culture, I think it’s just about opening your arms and creating more opportunities and more access to sport.

“We need to create more access routes to sport. We need to encourage more people to come, enjoy what happens on the race weekend. Once you get to the masses there and see the race cars go 200 mph, six inches away, who won’t get hooked?

Daugherty also spoke about how NASCAR handled the discovery of a rope found in Wallace’s garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. The incident led to an FBI investigation that eventually refuted the incident as a hate crime, saying it was just a knot that had been placed on the door late last year to facilitate the lifting and closing.

“I’m glad NASCAR has reacted the way they did,” said Daugherty. “There is no doubt about it quickly, fairly, but with a strong hand. I think that was necessary. But I said that day doesn’t matter, let’s go ahead and any distraction (like) the people who fly the flag on the track and outside, man, good luck, do what you have to do.

Then when it was discovered that it was not something that was placed there, something that had been there for a while, I was relieved. We have so much in our world that it is so politicized that it is horrible. It is a difficult time to be in our country because everything is on the left or the right and the reactions of the people I thought were really bad, because everyone in the media really wants something to be so significant and a problem. I thought it was great for our sport. I think it showed that we exaggerated a bit, as we should have, and found that it wasn’t true. So we can put that aside and it doesn’t matter and move on. ”

Daugherty said he burst into tears as the entire NASCAR garage followed Bubba Wallace and his race car onto pit road ahead of Monday’s rescheduled Cup race.

“It was a significant moment for me and I have been in the sport for 30 years,” said Daugherty. “You always wonder who was on board in something, in any movement. And when you see a movement like this, you are looking through the garage area and you are looking at the faces and 99% of those faces are or are not the same as mine or Bubba’s, do you wonder who really has your back?

“… When I looked up and saw those guys pushing that race car, my eyes filled with tears because it made me realize that when I walk into the garage area, that’s my house, I’m welcome there.”

Daugherty acknowledges that NASCAR and society still have a long way to go to see true equality both on and off the track.

“I get a lot of uneducated comments all the time,” said Daugherty. “And I think when we have something like this up front and the world can see, then you should pay attention. You can’t just brush it and put us in this box.

“We can no longer put ourselves in that box we have been in for the past 60 years. Now you have to watch this sport and you can be cynical, I have no problem or pessimistic, I think it is fair. But you have to pay attention. “

Daugherty revealed that his team’s No. 37 Chevrolet Camaro, driven by Ryan Preece, will carry a special paint scheme for this weekend’s double Cup title at Pocono Raceway. The paint scheme will highlight an initiative,, which Daugherty said would “create the opportunity for communication based on the elimination of inequality, racism, bias and insensitivity.”

“When I saw the King (Richard Petty) walking down the pit road (with Wallace and hundreds of other Cup team members), I was touched by his heart because he is of a different gender, a different generation and expectations would probably not be quite as high for him as it should be or would be for me, “said Daugherty.” But when I saw him walking down, I saw his statement (on the rope). I said, ‘Man, we’re rolling.’

“So the world saw that and today we are in a better place in NASCAR than two weeks ago and I am really excited about the future. I am happy and very proud to be part of this organization ”.

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