|Clements returns this weekend|
“I want to start out by saying I made a remark that has no place in our society, kidding or not,” said Clements, who was reinstated this week after completing a cultural diversity program. “I want to apologize to NASCAR, the reporter, my team, my family, my sponsors and of course all the fans out there. I didn’t mean to offend anybody at all. I’m sorry I let you all down.”
While not revealing the specific comment that resulted in his suspension, Clements did explain the circumstances under which it occurred. “I wasn’t thinking, honestly,” he said. “I was just walking along trying to help the guy find somebody. I just blurted it out. As soon as I did, I knew I didn’t do good. I knew I messed up, but it was too late and I just kept talking. It was stupid.”
Clements said he was stunned by the penalty, but decided immediately to acknowledge his comments and take whatever penalty ensued.
“At first, it really hit me hard,” he said. “When I got the call from NASCAR, I was definitely shocked. They called and asked me if I did say that remark. I was honest with them and owned up for it, which I think anybody should have done. I took my punishment and I have done everything I can to make it right and try to move on and make all this better.”
He said that while the incident cost him one sponsor, “most of them have been behind me. I’ve had one pull out on us, but we have a lot of support. We have our car filled up this weekend and are very grateful for guys like Jim Sealy of US Petroleum for helping us and sticking through it with us.
“It doesn’t represent who I am or how I was raised,” said Clements. “My grandpa, Crawford Clements, who I looked up to and respected and got me started racing when I was seven, was a crew chief for Wendell Scott in 1965. I was raised to respect everybody.”
Clements said his diversity training included, “a day’s worth of studying different things, different meanings of different words, where they came from, who they offend and why you shouldn’t say them. You sit and talk to people all the time and make jokes,” he said. “Somebody could say something offensive and you might not say anything, but from now on I’m going to stand up and be like ‘man that isn’t something you should say’ and try to pass along what I learned.”
He said he considers NASCAR’s penalty to be fair, adding that the sanctioning body “did what they had to do. I respect their decision and I did everything they wanted me to do. Anything to right the wrong. (I) took the suspension, took the class and apologized to the reporter and of course all the fans out there. I didn’t mean to offend anybody.
“It has been a challenging time for me,” he said. “I want to grow from it and help other people. Anytime a race car driver gets sat out -- any amount of time -- it is the worst thing that can happen to anybody. I don’t want to watch anybody drive (my) car when (I am) supposed to be in it. I had a lot of time to think about my actions. I want to thank Dr. Lapchick and his team for their time and for helping me learn. I’m excited to be back here at Bristol and get a chance to race again. Hopefully, (I can) put all this behind me and move on.”
He said he received encouragement and support from a number of drivers since the story became public last month.
“Michael McDowell, Josh Wise, Justin Allgaier, I can sit here and name a bunch of them (who contacted me). They have all had my back. Like I said, (the comment) doesn’t represent who I am, or what I’m about. As you can see, we have St. Jude (Children’s Research Hospital) on our hood, I’m wearing a St. Jude suit. It was no representation of who I am.
“I just want to get that out of the way, make it right and show who I really am.”