Patriotic rage is being fueled this holiday weekend near the nation’s birthplace after a local NASCAR racetrack in Virginia has banned the flying of flags in the track infield, prompting at least eight employees to quit their jobs.
“This is the Fourth of July weekend, and we’re at war!” says Bryan Bowyer, who just resigned his position as chief steward and race director at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.
“The whole basis of our society is our flag and what this weekend represents. The ban just pushed me over the edge.”
Bowyer says in addition to himself, more than half a dozen others decided to resign their positions, including the entire scoring staff, two officials with the race-sanctioning body NASCAR, and the scoreboard operator.
The track’s owner, Dwight Schaubach, denies there’s a total ban on the American flag, but explains there’s a new preclusion against flying any sort of banner, flag or windsock in the track’s infield, potentially obstructing the view of race fans.
“It has nothing to do with the American flag,” Schaubach told WorldNetDaily. “I have not abandoned any particular flag. I’m just as much a Southerner and an American as anyone. I have flags on my personal cars. I just don’t want them flying in the infield.”
Langley Speedway is located across the street from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va.
Langley Speedway is located in the heart of America’s military country. The .395-mile asphalt oval track is directly across the street from Langley Air Force Base, and NASA’s wind tunnel is viewable from the stands. The U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet is headquarted just a half-hour away at Norfolk, Va.
The track does have a giant U.S. flag posted, which racing enthusiasts face when the national anthem is being played.
Schaubach says several spectators have complained about the flags on the infield getting in their way of the action, though he couldn’t provide a specific number.
He adds the ban was instituted two weeks ago, and has been posted on the track’s website:
- As of this date, 6/21/04, all flags, banners, socks, etc. will be prohibited from being displayed (flown) in the infield pit area at any time.
All haulers are restricted from having anything attached that would extend higher than the roofline of the trailer except for approved platforms, and handrails. The promoter has the right at any time to have objects that do not conform to this rule removed.
Any competitor, crewmember, or owner that refuses to abide by this rule will be asked to leave the facility until notified by the track officials on actions to be taken.
I hope this will help everyone at the speedway have a better viewing of race activities, and enjoy the show better.
“The flags in no way inhibited my view,” Bowyer explained, saying he believes there’s another reason for the blanket proscription on infield flags.
Bowyer says he was told by a track employee close to Schaubach that the track owner had been offended by someone flying a Confederate flag in the infield, and thus decided to preclude banners of all kinds.
“That is absolutely incorrect,” Schaubach responded to the allegation.
The issue came to a head Thursday night, when one driver in the Late Model Sportsman division was told he would be disqualified for flying the American flag on his car’s hauler.
When track management considered potential punishment, other drivers refused to race, as they rallied behind their fellow motorist who wouldn’t remove the Stars and Stripes.
The race did eventually take place later that night, after hundreds of fans had already filed out of the stands.
The flap over the flag has become a hot topic on RaceRap.com, a Virginia-based messageboard for auto-racing fans.
“Langley must apologize! Plain and simple,” writes website owner Bob Barney, suggesting a possible solution to the matter. He proposes the track host a “flag night” next week, where fans bringing an American flag with them would get a discount off their ticket price.
“I certainly hope that management at Langley Speedway stops for a moment and realizes what happened [Thursday] night. It was America at its best! Everyone makes mistakes. I think that this whole issue had more to do with past events than the American flag. What we saw last night was the stick that broke the camel’s back and American democracy working! What better timing, but on the 4th of July?”
As far as Bowyer is concerned, he says he’ll miss directing the races at Langley, but honoring U.S. troops in Iraq and elsewhere is more important.
“I give allegiance to what protects me and my family, and that comes first,” he said.