Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements elaborated Thursday on what led to his indefinite suspension from NASCAR competition.
Clements, who said he’s suspended for at least two races, wouldn’t reveal what comment he made, and paused when pressed as to whether it was racial in nature. Asked again, “Was it racial or not? Maybe not in context, but in term?” he replied: “Correct.”
“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.”
Clements said he used the word once on Saturday. As he was exiting the driver’s meeting at Daytona International Speedway, he said a female NASCAR employee approached him with a reporter from MTV. Clements told ESPN that the NASCAR employee asked if he knew where to find driver Johanna Long’s transporter, and he personally took the pair to the location.
When they were walking, he inadvertently used a word that he shouldn’t have.
“That’s pretty much how it happened,” he said. “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.”
Clements said he received multiple messages from officials, and was honest with them.
“The guy asked me point-blank: ‘Hey, did you say this word?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I did.’ I was being honest. I did. I messed up. It was just one word and it wasn’t about anybody. It wasn’t even used as that.
While admitting his mistake, Clements thought he might receive a fine, rather than a suspension.
“I did not think it was going to be like this,” Clements told ESPN. “I just thought I’d be fined like most normal guys have been fined. But not suspended for this. But I’m going to do what they want me to do so I can get back in the car as soon as possible. I think it’s a little harsh, but it’s their rules. It’s their game.”
Daytona 500 draws big ratings
There was good news and bad news for NASCAR in the wake of the Daytona 500 weekend.
On the positive side, the 55th running of the Daytona 500, in which Jimmie Johnson held off Dale Earnhardt Jr., was the highest-rated and most-watched race for FOX in five years, according to Nielsen Media Research.
On the negative side, three of the spectators hurt in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at the Daytona International Speedway have hired an Orlando-based law firm to represent them.
The race scored a 9.9/22 rating/share, and averaged 16.7 million viewers, according to fast national figures released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research, the most since 2008′s 10.2/20, 17.8 million viewers. It represented a 24-percent ratings spike from last year (8.0/14), and a 22-percent gain in average viewership (13.7 million). The 2013 rating and viewership increases are the best year-to-year rise ever for the Daytona 500.
Highlights of the race included Danica Patrick’s historic pole-position start, the official introduction of the Gen 6 car and Johnson’s second Daytona 500 win coming in his 400th career race.
The 2013 race ranked as the top-rated sports event on any network since the Super Bowl and attracted more viewers than last week’s NBA All-Star Game, the 2012 Kentucky Derby, the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open and the final round of the 2012 Masters.
Meanwhile, lawyer Matt Morgan of Morgan & Morgan announced on Twitter: “BREAKING: My firm has been retained by three individuals who were injured at the NASCAR race this past weekend. — @MattMorganESQ.”
No lawsuits have been filed, but Morgan told ESPN.com that he’s obtaining information from the individuals to “pursue their claim for damages against the entities responsible for the injuries.”
Such entities could include Daytona International Speedway, the company that designed the catch fence, NASCAR, the car owner and others.
At least 28 spectators suffered injured when Kyle Larson’s car went airborne into the front stretch catch fence on the final lap. Two were initially listed in critical condition at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach. They have since been upgraded to stable condition, a hospital spokesman told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
Driver twitter battle
NASCAR drivers have a habit of making their frustrations public after a race, and the aftermath of Sunday’s Daytona 500 was no different, as Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano traded tweets, according to a report by USA Today.
It started with Hamlin’s tweet to Brad Keselowski, who finished fourth:
“@keselowski sorry I couldn’t get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time”
That genius teammate is Logano, who drove for Joe Gibbs Racing with Hamlin from 2008 to 2012 before joining Penske Racing this year.
Hamlin, who finished 14th, did not appreciate that Logano impeded his moves by not sticking to the inside line.
Clint Bowyer retweeted Hamlin and supported Hamlin’s contention by adding “2nd that” to the tweet.
Logano, who finished 19th, responded by tweeting:
“@dennyhamlin I Remember when you were MY genius teammate. #LoveYouMeanIt”
Hamlin responded to the response by tweeting:
“@joeylogano inside line was doomed every 3 wide move that was made. Nobody who went 3 middle went anywhere”