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RIR joins NASCAR in asking fans to leave Confederate Flag at home

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RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond International Raceway was one of 30 tracks to join NASCAR in asking race fans to leave their Confederate Flags at home. NASCAR released a statement on the issue Thursday, as states and businesses wrestle with what to do about the image that evokes history and heritage to some and racism and hate to others.

“As members of the NASCAR industry, we join NASCAR in the desire to make our events among the most fan-friendly, welcoming environments in all of sports and entertainment,” the NASCAR statement began. “To do that, we are asking our fans and partners to join us in a renewed effort to create an all-inclusive, even more welcoming atmosphere for all who attend our events. This will include the request to refrain from displaying the Confederate Flag at our facilities and NASCAR events.”

While NASCAR indicated it would not ban the flag, it has offered fans the opportunity to trade in their Confederate Flag for an American Flag.

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“So, fans who would like to fly the American flag, we’ll trade with you whatever flag that you have,” Dayton International Speedway President Joie Chitwood said. “We want you to celebrate that flag this weekend. That’s what’s important. Going forward, we really have to look at that flag, where the other flag goes because it doesn’t have a place in our sport.”

NASCAR has already banned the Confederate Flag from any official areas at the tracks. It said it was working on a plan to eliminate the flag from the infield too.

“We are committed to providing a welcoming atmosphere free of offensive symbols,” the NASCAR statement read. “This is an opportunity for NASCAR Nation to demonstrate its sense of mutual respect and acceptance for all who attend our events while collectively sharing the tremendous experience of NASCAR racing.”

RIR was one of the 30 tracks to join the statement, but president Dennis Bickmeier says his facility hasn’t had much of a problem with anyone flying the flag. A walk through any of RIR’s parking lots on any race day won’t result in a large number of flags being seen. Still, Bickmeier encourages any fan who has a concern or a question to contact his office to discuss it.

“We love interacting with our fans and responding to them” Bickmeier said. “We’ll do the same as we’ve always done in discussing any issue that a fan might have or any opinion they might have. We’re very open to having that type of dialogue with them.”

NASCAR returns to Richmond the weekend of September 12 with the Federated Auto Parts 400 and Virginia529 College Savings 250.