The Week That Was: NASCAR Is Not Whislin’ Dixie

      NASCAR officials took dramatic action last Wednesday in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder when they announced  Confederate flags would no longer be allowed to be flown at any of their sanctioned races. In addition, spectators will not be admitted if they wear apparel bearing the stars and bars flag.

     Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who is currently the only African-American driver n the NASCAR circuit and drives for Richard Petty Motorsports, has long called for the Confederate flag to be banned and was thrilled when his goal became a reality. He has become one of NASCAR’s most popular stars.

     While most people across the country cheered NASCAR’s decision as common sense business it couldn’t have been an easy one to make. Its headquarters are located in Charlotte, North Carolina and stock car fans have tended to be politically conservative. Many of those prototypical fans vented their anger on Twitter.

     A perennial also-ran on the NASCAR truck & RV circuit, Ray Ciccarelli, announced his retirement the next day and cited the flag ban as the reason he was hanging up his helmet. At age 50 Ciccarelli never won anything and had few commercial endorsements to show for his efforts. His idiotic statement last Thursday gave him more publicity than he ever achieved from his work behind the wheel and it appeared to a contrived bizarre PR stunt to make him a darling of bigots.

     Comedian Steve Hofstetter, who grew up in Briarwood and has long championed Queens in his national tours, got off a great joke which generated a lot of social media buzz. “Ray Ciccarelli was never good at anything race-related,” Hofstetter quipped.

     New York Mets 2020 Major League Baseball first-round draft choice Pete Crow-Armstrong is an 18 year-old outfielder who attended Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles which is the alma mater of former Mets infielder Josh Satin and perennial All-Star Christian Yelich. At six-feet and 175 pounds, Mets scouts project him as a player who will hit for average as opposed to power.

     The New York Yankees selected University of Arizona sophomore catcher Austin Wells with their first pick in the draft. Wells had been chosen in the 35th round of the 2018 MLB Draft but wisely decided to attend college in Tucson instead. He is one of the few catchers who is comfortable wearing glasses.

      Francis Lewis High School senior Lauren Hidalgo was named a recipient of a $10,000 college scholarship from the Yankees-Stonewall Fund which began last year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots in the West Village which many cite as the birth of the gay rights movement.   

      I was saddened to learn of the passing of former Mets and Yankees outfielder Claudell Washington who while never a superstar had a very respectable 17-year career in the majors. He was always a pleasant interview.

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