Dear NASCAR: Stop Being Hypocritical About Controversial Drug Sponsor

Nov 20, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR chairman and ceo Brian France speaks to the press before the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR chairman and ceo Brian France speaks to the press before the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

NASCAR is a sport of rebels. In fact, NASCAR didn’t start as anything more than a bunch of good old boys running shine through the Appalachian Mountains during the prohibition period in the United States. Of course, it quickly became more than that as moonshiners began to build faster and sleeker cars in order to outrun the cops, but they also realized the fun in racing each other as well.

Whether it was the twisty turns of the mountain roads as they outraced the cops to deliver their goods or the moonshiners needing to go faster and faster, the activity soon became popular in the southern states of America and continued even after the prohibition period had ended. With that being said, it was only 15 years after the end of prohibition that NASCAR was officially founded in 1948.

Its unorthodox beginnings and crop of good old southern boys competing on tracks all around the south wasn’t the only thing that made NASCAR a bit controversial. It also acquired RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company as a sponsor in 1972, which sponsored NASCAR’s top series until 2003 when it became illegal for cigarette companies to advertise on television.

The Cup Series soon became the Nextel Cup Series and later went on to become The Sprint Cup Series a few years later. While NASCAR was no longer advertising tobacco companies, they continued to advertise alcoholic beverages. In 2017, the series was sponsored by Monster Energy drinks. If nothing else, this shows that NASCAR has a history of embracing controversy and making money where others wouldn’t.

Take 2016 for example, when Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Wayne Self raced at Texas Motor Speedway with a Trump-Pence 2016 sponsorship plastered on the hood of the car. There are even a few drivers in lower-tier series that have E-Cigarette and vaping sponsorships.

More from Beyond the Flag

Why, then, would they choose to disallow a title sponsor that represented a growing trend in America last weekend at Kansas Motor Speedway? For those that don’t know, Carl Long, who was suspended in 2009 for an egregious engine violation during The All-Star race Weekend, made his return to NASCAR at Kansas over the weekend, but not before his new sponsor, Veedverks, a Colorado-based marijuana vaping company, was disallowed.

Long’s team was forced to remove the decal from the hood of their race car before they were allowed on track, and while NASCAR never gave an official explanation for why the decal was removed, some are referencing a section in the NASCAR rule book that allows the sport to deny any sponsor they feel affects the integrity of the sport as a probable cause.

"According to NASCAR’s rule book, “NASCAR may refuse to permit a Competitor to participate in an Event if NASCAR determines that any advertising, sponsorship, or similar agreement to which the Competitor is or will be a party, is detrimental to the sport, to NASCAR, Series Sponsor, or to the Promoter for any reason, including without limitation, the public image of the sport.”"

Carl Long later posted on his Facebook about the incident.

"“Give them a break. They are not trying to beat me down, in fact, all have been great in welcoming us back. I am the guy who failed NASCAR. … It would never [have] been allowed. Just leave it to me to create a big stink.”"

Long also claimed that the misunderstanding occurred when his team misspelled the sponsor’s name when running it by NASCAR for approval. With that being said, his history with the sport and his desire to just go back to racing will probably mean Long won’t fight this any further and will quietly walk away from the matter.

The problem, however, comes with the lack of explanation that NASCAR has given for the incident. In fact, it almost seems utterly hypocritical for the sport to continue to advertise beer sponsors and energy drinks, both of which carry a wide range of potential health risks and problems later in life, but deny something that is essentially their equal in every way.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

Maybe it has to do with NASCAR wanting to appeal more to younger audiences and bring in a new crop of fans. But if that were true, why would they mention their days as the Winston Cup earlier this month at Richmond Raceway and continue to allow beer sponsors to advertise with them on a weekly basis?

What NASCAR needs here is consistency in their decisions, which hasn’t been their strong suit since they have changed the playoff format three years in a row and added stage racing just this year. Their denial of Veedverks over the weekend is a sign that NASCAR has no consistency in their decision-making at all.

In the end, it would just be nice if NASCAR gave an actual reason why they denied the sponsorship and then made future decisions off of the basis of that decision. If NASCAR is so worried about drug sponsors entering the sport, why was the sport even founded on bootleggers in the south? Furthermore, why did NASCAR keep Winston as head title sponsor for over three decades?

Whether NASCAR likes it or not, this incident proves that NASCAR is no longer the counter-culture that fans fell in love with over its 60-year history, but a pandering mainstream sport that will sell its soul for any possibility of staying in the media’s good graces and expanding their sport in the worst ways possible.

Next: NASCAR Power Rankings

The worst part is that marijuana use isn’t even as counter-culture as it once was. In fact, ten states have legalized some form of marijuana and it’s expected that more will in the future as well. This further puts Veedverks and companies like it on the same level as beer and energy drinks, which all have their benefits and drawbacks, but continue to be promoted by NASCAR.