Just when NASCAR thought it was in the clear on the political front because President Donald Trump had turned his attention toward the NBA, along came Goodyear to dig potholes on the racing organization’s freshly paved track.
A report about the tire manufacturer’s policy for employees regarding political messages in the workplace has put NASCAR in an uncomfortable position once again.
President Donald Trump attacks NASCAR sponsor Goodyear
President Donald Trump tweeted a suggestion that Americans should boycott products made by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. after WIBW-TV in Wichita, Kansas, reported that employees were told they cannot wear “MAGA” or “Blue Lives Matter” apparel in the workplace. According to the report, a graphic shown in a diversity training meeting instructed workers that “Black Lives Matter” and LGBTQ messages remain permissible.
Goodyear responded in a statement that the company’s corporate offices did not create the material in question or use it in diversity training. But Goodyear did not explicitly deny that employees saw and heard that message during a meeting. Instead, the company said it had become the focus of “some misconceptions about our policies and our company.”
The blowup relates to NASCAR because Goodyear has been an official sponsor of the racing circuit since 1997.
Trump targeted NASCAR earlier this year when he demanded an apology from NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace over what he labeled “a hoax.” Members of Wallace’s crew found a rope fashioned into a noose connected to an overhead garage door at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. However, the FBI determined that the rope had been present previously and that no hate crime was committed.
The Trump 2020 car won’t be changing tires
President Trump’s criticism of Goodyear affects NASCAR because of the racing organization’s longtime relationship with the tire manufacturer. Goodyear most recently renewed its deal as an official sponsor in 2017. Consequently, vehicles in the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Gander RV & Outdoors series are required to use Goodyear tires.
Making the controversy even more complicated from the NASCAR perspective is that a political action committee supporting the Trump 2020 election campaign is a part-time sponsor of one of the racing teams.
Corey LaJoie drives the Trump 2020 car at numerous races through a deal between Go Fas Racing and the Patriots of America PAC. The race team will have no choice but to continue using Goodyear tires and include a Goodyear logo on the No. 32 Ford Mustang.
LaJoie and the Go Fas Racing team will race next with the Trump 2020 paint scheme on Aug. 29 during the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
“We just have one way to run them,” Go Fas Racing general manager Mason St. Hilaire told Fox Business. “It’s either those tires or no tires. We don’t have much of a choice. There should be two. I don’t know if you should just have one. You’ve got to keep something for the competition, right? Putting another one in would probably be a little bit of fun, both for cost and competition.”
NASCAR is steering clear for now
There being no upside to immersing itself in another squabble with Donald Trump when the president has most recently been venting about NBA players and coaches kneeling for the national anthem, NASCAR has not commented on the Goodyear controversy. Fox Business reported that the Patriots of America PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Go Fas Racing general manager Mason St. Hilaire said his team isn’t reluctant to use Goodyear tires.
“It doesn’t look like whatever was out there on the internet came from corporate. It looks like maybe it was some sort of independent-type form that came out,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. How does that even get out there?”
As for driver Corey LaJoie and the No. 32 Ford Mustang, don’t expect to see much of them during racing. Although the car regularly runs start-to-finish, LaJoie has finished on the lead lap of just nine of this season’s 23 races and has posted only one top-10 result in 2020.