NASCAR Stops Race Team From Honoring Police
by John Chuhran, MetroSports Magazine - August 9, 2022
Apparently, NASCAR has gone woke.
And the organization is trying to make sure the public doesn’t find out about it.
It all goes back to Friday, July 22. Technical Inspection for the CRC Brakleen 150, the 16th of 23 races in the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, was underway at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway. While walking past an open garage, a NASCAR official noticed some words on the #28 Truck and indicated that the decal would have to be removed in order to pass inspection.
The decal was approximately 5 inches tall by 5 inches wide. It read “Back the Blue.”
Above: The #28 FDNY Racing truck. All photographs courtesy of Jim Rosenblum and FDNY Racing Below: The offending decal, among others that adorn the #28 FDNY Racing truck.
NASCAR has been a political barometer for more than three decades with "NASCAR dads" taking their place alongside "soccer moms" as a demographic group that political pollsters try to use to predict election results.
But now, despite statements to the contrary by NASCAR President Steve Phelps, it seems that the organization is taking sides. That position represented a distinct change from the past when the organization permitted its teams, owners and drivers to freely show their allegiances in a demonstration of American liberty.
NASCAR became a political lightning rod last October when Brandon Brown won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 and the crowd in the grandstands, following several weeks of similar chants at major college football games, began chanting “F*** Joe Biden.” TV announcer Kelli Stavast, trying to deflect the actual wording of the chant heard by the TV audience, said the crowd was cheering “Let’s go, Brandon.” Her interpretation of the phrase gave birth to a cottage industry that used colors and shapes similar to those used by NASCAR as part of various products (Tee Shirts, decals, etc.) that celebrated “Let’s go Brandon.”
In January 2022, NASCAR rejected the sponsorship application of LGBcoin.io to promote a new “cryptocurrency meme coin” that touted “Lets Go Brandon.” Since then, Brown’s career has collapsed. Other potential sponsors were reluctant to support his family-run team because Brown had become, in his own words, “too controversial” and his underfunded operation could score only three top-10 finishes in the first 19 races of the 2022 season.
It is a situation Rosenblum can understand. Though NASCAR has helped certain teams acquire sponsorships in the past, it has done nothing to assist Brandonbuilt Motorsports or FDNY Racing.
On November 5, NASCAR president Phelps tried to dismiss the matter, saying “with respect to the trademarks used on that statement, to the degree they’re using a NASCAR logo, we will pursue whoever that is and get that stopped. That’s not OK. It’s not OK that you’re using our trademarks illegally, regardless of whether we agree with what the position is or not.” Phelps added, “We do not want to associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right. We obviously have and we’ve always had, as a sport, tremendous respect for the office of the president no matter who is sitting.”
Under the direction of members of the France family (owners of the series and half the tracks), NASCAR leadership attended events at the White House during the Nixon administration, and the command to start engines for the 1984 Firecracker 400 was given by President Reagan by radio from Air Force One; he landed at Daytona Beach and greeted winner Richard Petty in the Press Box. President Trump was the Honorary Starter of the 2020 Daytona 500 and spoke with drivers, crews and fans before the race.
Under Phelps’ leadership later in 2020, NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate flag at its events at the request of Bubba Wallace, its only Black full-time driver. Wallace wore an "I Can't Breathe" Tee Shirt on pit road, and ran with a “Black Lives Matter” paint scheme in one race. After the pull rope for his garage stall at Talladega was found to be shaped like a noose, the FBI investigated the situation and determined that the rope had been that way for at least one race several months earlier when another driver and team was using that garage. Wallace doubled down on his claims of racism, proclaiming on national TV, “I don’t care what they (the FBI) found, I know what I saw – I saw a noose.” He gained woke sponsors like Doordash and McDonald’s within months.
In the past, NASCAR officials have occasionally told teams to remove unapproved messages from vehicles. This time it was different. The #28 truck is different. And now NASCAR wants the team and crew of the #28 truck to change.
The team that enters and operates the #28 truck is officially FDNY Racing based in Mamaroneck, NY. It has minimal sponsorship – racing a very limited schedule because of lack of funding – and is emblazoned with logos and slogans that support America’s first responders and military.
Above: (Center) Jim Rosenblum with the #28 FDNY Truck and the offending decal. (Left and Right) Additional decals on the FDNY Truck honor firefighters, police units and specific first responders
The owner of the #28 Truck is Jim Rosenblum, 82, a native New Yorker who caught the racing bug when he saw the first Daytona 500 back in 1959. Building a successful real estate business, Rosenblum eventually was in a position to indulge his racing dreams in the 1980s. He never had the virtually bottomless pockets of men like Roger Penske or Rick Hendrick, so his teams were never very successful, but he loved just competing and so he soldiered on. ( for more on the history of FDNY Racing, see the following article: https://www.metrosportsmag.com/single-post/2019/02/16/fdny-racing-daytona-2019-competing-for-a-higher-cause )
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 inspired Rosenblum to combine his love for America with his love for racing. From that day forward, he would use racing to share messages of hope and patriotism with fans at the tracks and with TV viewers nationwide.
That attitude of the little guy taking his chances against the biggest and the best is part of what built NASCAR. But as costs to compete rose, NASCAR realized that some longtime owners – like Rosenblum – just couldn’t keep up. Bill France Jr., the son of NASCAR founder “Big Bill” France, and some veteran NASCAR leaders wanted to keep these owners involved, so in 1995 they created what was then called the NASCAR SuperTruck Series, a lower level (like AA baseball) where older cars could have steel chassis tubes removed and pickup truck body panels installed. The then-new truck series would race for shorter distances for less money, many times as an undercard for the NASCAR Cup Series.
Rosenblum jumped at the chance offered by the new series. Today, he stands as the only NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team owner who raced at the inaugural series event (the February 5, 1995 Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic SuperTruck race at Phoenix International Raceway) and still competes in the series, albeit only a handful of times a year, mostly with volunteer support from retired first responders or military veterans. But the shiny red, white and blue #28 FDNY Racing Chevrolet Silverado makes numerous appearances at parades and other civic events that spread the message of support towards those who protect all Americans. And that has gone on for more than two decades.
Above: Jim Rosenblum (far left) with the #28 FDNY Racing truck at a village of Mamaroneck parade with then Mayor, Norm Rosenblum (right), and local racer Kristina Esposito (center)
Which brings us back to the 2022 race at Pocono. When told that the “Back the Blue” decal would have to come off, Rosenblum was confused.
“We had it (the same message on a different decal) on the truck at Daytona in February and nobody (from NASCAR) said a word,” Rosenblum said. “I went to see some top officials (at Pocono) and they said it was NASCAR policy and there was nothing they could do. If we didn’t remove the decal, they wouldn’t let us out on track. I didn’t want to take it off, but we were there to race, so it came off.”
Rain, lightning and thunderstorms continued throughout the day, washing out both practice and time trials. That mattered because 38 trucks were entered and only 36 would start.
Of all major national sports, NASCAR is the most secretive with its rule books (which they do not provide to the media), usually sharing a public relations interpretation of a relevant rule with the press. At Pocono, it was announced that “the lineup is put together by a metric system based on performance and is utilized when qualifying is called off due to the inclement weather.”
That statement pleased Rosenblum. But what followed did not.
“They (NASCAR) posted the starting grid and we were listed as 37th, the first truck not in the field,” Rosenblum said. “We were sure we would be safe (in the field) because the last spot is supposed to be reserved for a past series champion (who did not make the field on time or on current season points) and there was none. On Truck Owner points, we were 36th (of the trucks entered). But then they (NASCAR officials) said they would give that spot to a guy who won a race last year. He wasn’t a past champion and he didn’t win a race this year. We didn’t think that was right.”
So, the crew loaded up the #28 truck and went home. Rosenblum was discouraged but not broken. While some teams have a special truck customized for the handling characteristics of each track on the tour, FDNY Racing has just two – one for the ultra-high-speed, high-banked Superspeedways at Daytona (2.5 miles) and Talladega (2.66 miles), AL, and a second one for Speedways of 1.5 miles or more. With just five races left on the schedule, FDNY Racing intends to enter just one: the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega on October 1. Despite the questionable actions by NASCAR at Pocono, Rosenblum will be filing an entry.
“Maybe they (NASCAR) don’t want us anymore,” Rosenblum said. “We work hard with a fraction of the budget most teams have, so we can’t really afford to pay for entry fees and tires (specially constructed for each track) that don’t get used.
“Did this happen because of the decal? I don’t know. This isn’t the same as ‘Let’s go Brandon’ last year. We don’t criticize what others believe. But today, when crime seems to be everywhere and growing, we show our support for the police as well as the firefighters and the military.
“We’ll keep entering races when we can afford to or until they (NASCAR officials) tell us to stay away. That’s the reason this team exists – to remind people that there are others who are trying to help us all. We’re going to continue supporting those in uniform who serve our country to make America safe, as well as those who believe and support traditional American values that promote hard work, ingenuity and liberty, show respect for American history and achievements, and treat everyone fairly and equally. These are the very values that built NASCAR.
“I don’t know why NASCAR would have a problem with promoting that. I hope they'll explain it to me if they do.”
If you would like to help the little guy, if you want to support the FDNY Racing Team and the way it honors first responders and the military, please visit their website – https://fdnyracing.com/ – or reach out to FDNYracing@aol.com.
Merchandise is also available for purchase with 100 percent of profits sent to the FDNY Widows' and Children's Fund.
The NASCAR Public Relations staff – including a direct email to Eric Nyquist, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Chief Communications & Social Responsibility Officer – was contacted on July 25 about obtaining clarifications for the treatment of the #28 FDNY Racing team at Pocono. Since that date (more than two weeks ago) they have not responded.