NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements reportedly used an unidentified racial slur in an interview with a writer at Daytona International Speedway. That slip-up has cost him dearly, as Clements has been indefinitely suspended from racing.
David Newton of ESPN provided more details in breaking the news:
NASCAR officials would not verify or discuss what Clements said to earn the suspension, only that it was an "intolerable and insensitive remark'' and violated the sanctioning body's Code of Conduct for actions detrimental to stock car racing.
Clements violated the code of conduct mentioned by Newton under sections 7-5 and 12-1, which can essentially be defined as actions detrimental to stock car racing, according to Heather Tucker of USA Today.
Clements expanded on the context behind his comments in an exclusive interview with ESPN. He said the comments were to an MTV reporter on Saturday at Daytona and were unrecorded.
"When you say 'racial' remark, it wasn't used to describe anybody or anything," Clements told ESPN. "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.
"And even after I said what I said, they still kept asking me questions. It didn't seem like it was a big deal at all. I didn't even think twice about it, like, after. I know I shouldn't have said it. Even when I did say it, I shouldn't have said it. But I didn't think it was going to be a big deal."
Also noted in the ESPN report are the specific guidelines that led to Clements' suspension.
NASCAR has a policy that prohibits public statements by drivers that disparage anyone in any way. Its restrictions include remarks based on race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, creed, marital status and pretty much any other form of diversity.
The 29-year-old Clements has struggled in his career on the Nationwide Series circuit to date. He debuted in 2003, but did not give a full-time commitment until 2010. Since then, he has registered just three top-10 finishes and has yet to find Victory Lane.
In the first race of the season that preceded these comments, the driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet car had an oil problem that prematurely ended his day. It wound up placing him in 33rd that Saturday at the DRIVE4COPD 300.
Although he declined to reveal what exactly he said that gave way to such a harsh punishment from NASCAR officials, Clements released a remorseful statement in the aftermath of the suspension:
I apologize and regret what I said to the NASCAR writer and to NASCAR, my sponsors, my fans, and my team.
...I will not get into specifics of what I said, but my comment to the writer was in no way meant to be disrespectful or insensitive to anyone or to be detrimental to NASCAR or the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I will do what I need to do in order to atone for my error in judgment.
Whatever Clements said was obviously pretty severe. It will be a struggle for him to get back to the track anytime soon, and it could threaten his NASCAR future.