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No knees taken in NASCAR as team owners sound off

Kyle Busch of Las Vegas won a NASCAR race in New Hampshire on Sunday.

There were no protests during the national anthem.

Neither of which should come as a big surprise.

There will be a NASCAR Truck Series race Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The prediction is that before gentlemen start their engines, no one will take a knee as “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung.

Crew members will line up in neat rows on pit road. Many will place hands over hearts. Drivers will not thank their sponsors during the anthem. Some might even mouth the words, for NASCAR is the most patriotic of the pro sports.

When President Trump referred to NFL players who kneel during the national anthem as sons of bitches who should be fired, it seemed to go over well with supporters where he was speaking on Friday, which was Alabama. It did not go over well with hundreds of NFL players Sunday.

There were more knees taken than by Ohio State quarterbacks at the end of the game against UNLV.

Car owners speak out

Two high-profile NASCAR team owners spoke out against those who take knees during the national anthem. Richard Childress said protests from his team members would “get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.”

“Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America,” Childress said.

Added Richard Petty: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

These are opinions shared by many in NASCAR — shared by many, in fact, who follow the stick-and-ball sports, as people in auto racing refer to football, baseball, basketball and hockey. They might not help NASCAR, which is losing fans in droves, attract new ones from certain demographic areas. They might not help Richard Petty Motorsports, which is seeking a sponsor for the No. 43 car that Petty made famous, obtain one for 2018 and beyond.

CEOs of big companies tend to distance themselves from those who stir the pot. Or smoke it. It’s why Kellogg’s dropped Michael Phelps after he hit that bong at a party. It’s why Josh McCown is the Jets’ starting quarterback (though he played well Sunday against Miami) while Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed.

President Trump is delighted that people in NASCAR share his view about those who kneel during the national anthem.

“So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans,” the president wrote on his Twitter account Monday. “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag — they said it loud and clear!”

But Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems to think that maybe it wasn’t about that. He wrote it loud and clear on Twitter on Monday morning.

Junior’s take

This is what NASCAR’s most popular driver, who is retiring at season’s end, shared with his 2.7 million followers:

“All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable — JFK.”

A few hours later, NASCAR finally got around to releasing a carefully worded statement. But other than Earnhardt, few drivers had much to say about the controversy. One exception, of course, was Brad Keselowski.

“I can get behind trying to make the world a better place, Can’t get behind putting down others; kneeling clearly does both,” the outspoken Keselowski wrote on Twitter.

People in the stock car media wrote blogs with good intentions. “I feel a deep sense of hurt, anger and sadness this morning after seeing NASCAR’s name get associated with intolerance,” wrote Jeff Gluck, one of the sport’s most respected voices.

Las Vegas lead foot Kurt Busch posted only a blank entry on his Twitter account, save for a conspicuous icon in the middle of the white space. The icon was a big pile of you know what.

But I think Busch, who tries not to stir the pot these days, was speaking only of running into the back of teammate Kevin Harvick in a cloud of smoke that will force him to win the next race, or have his championship hopes put on a Greyhound bus.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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