Suspended NASCAR driver talks about comment

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After being suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and issuing a statement of apology last night, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements has explained the comments that have put him off the track.

In an interview with ESPN, Clements said that the remark was made by him only once and following the driver’s meeting last Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. The driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet said that after the meeting, he came across a NASCAR employee and an MTV reporter, with the former asking Clements where the transporter of fellow driver Johanna Long was. Clements then proceeded to walk the pair toward that location.

“And while we’re walking they started, [the MTV reporter] started, asking me questions,” Clements said according to an ESPN.com piece by Marty Smith. “And it wasn’t recorded. We were just talking. So I said one remark about how I wouldn’t…I can’t say that part.”

According to Smith’s piece, Clements also said that he’ll be out for a minimum of two races and have to undergo speech advisement.

As for whether his offending comments were of a racial nature, Clements was asked “Was it racial or not? Maybe not in context, but in term?” by ESPN. The driver replied: “Correct.”

“When you say ‘racial’ remark, it wasn’t used to describe anybody or anything,” Clements continued. “So that’s all I’m going to say to that. And it really wasn’t. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn’t have said it. It shouldn’t be used at all.”

NASCAR handed down its suspension of Clements on Wednesday, with senior vice president of racing operations Steve O’Donnell calling Clements’ comment a “intolerable and insensitive remark.”

Clements responded with a post on his team’s Facebook page, in which he apologized for his actions and closed by saying that he would “do what I need to do in order to atone for my error in judgment.”

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/