• Jan 23rd 2008 at 10:28AM
  • 70

Jon Denning, right. Photo courtesy of jondenning.com

The other day I came across "Before the Thunder Rolls: Devotions for NASCAR Fans", a Christian prayer book written by a former NASCAR chaplain. It brought to light for me the degree to which stock car racing and Southern Baptist Christianity intersect. Drivers of Catholic background like Juan Pablo Montoya, Jacques Villeneuve and Dario Franchitti may be making inroads into the sport, but that's of little consolation to Jon Denning.

The budding Jewish racing driver from New Jersey says he's encountered a surprising degree of antisemitism during his climb up the NASCAR ladder. The 20-year-old driver, currently on a visit to Israel, races in the lower-level Whelen All-American Series. He has won seven races in his career and was ranked among the top 500 aspiring stock car drivers before his sponsorship ran dry. Over the course of his experience so far, Denning has described an alarming degree of racism and bigotry in NASCAR, and was even told by colleagues that if he accepted Jesus he'd have better luck on the racetrack. Ouch. Although NASCAR has a diversity program in place, Denning has been refused three times, having been told the program is only for women, Hispanics and African-Americans.

[Source: Jewish Telegraphic Agency via Winding Road]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have a hard time believing such stuff still goes on today. Amazing if true, and very lame.
        • 7 Years Ago
        i dont mean to be racist in any way but i trully feel that nascar fans feel as if its the only thing they have left that's still "white and christin" and they want to keep it that way. That's why juan pablo's success or the simple fact toyota is racing will change this. Really no sport in america needs more change than the racist pit that is nascar!
        • 7 Years Ago
        NASCRAP is absolutely about everything Redneck. That includes racism, sexism, bigotry, xenophobia and hypocrisy.

        If the South would have successfully seceded from the Union they would no doubt still have slavery to this day. Shameful.
        • 7 Years Ago
        You have to remember one thing the Jewish People are not of the caucasion or white race! they are decendents of the Nomadic people who were dark skinned! So, if they want to claim it they can claim to be of African decent or in this case African-American! Check this out and you'll be suprised at what you find!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Can someone tell me the benefits of religion?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Well, there's a can of worms worth opening.

        It depends on a lot of things. Some people find it a comfort to fall back on, in which case it's a boost for self-confidence. Others find it gives them moral direction (and yes, this can be a _bad_ thing, too). Other people find a path to enlightment.

        If you mean _organized_ religion, there's certainly a benefit from the philosophical ideas, works of art and charity done by various organizations.

        I think it really depends on how you define "religion". Like any human organization, it has it's good (the concept of a Bodhisattva, for example) and it's bad (hate-filled, brainwashed suicide bombers using God to validate their actions).

        Rather like government. Or academia. Or science. Or anything, really.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Free crackers/wine/snake blood/what-have-you. That, and a warm, fuzzy blanket of ignorance.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Regular practice of religious rituals has shown statistically to increase life expectancy and decrease physical health problems such has high blood pressure. Search for the journal article, I've seen studies in Psychology, AMA, and Cardiology I think.
        • 7 Years Ago
        As a "normal" Christian and one who used to be(and still is) just as bothered and turned by pushy overbearing judgemental Christians as the next person, I could give you plenty of realistic reasons and thoughts behind religion and more importantly a "personal relationship with god". "Religion" has been severely corrupted by humans and its really quite sad what some of the churchs have become. Might as well just be corrupt politics. Anyway, I could elaborate more but unfortunately its much too long and complicated of a discussion to go into here.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Oh wait..........I forgot, it's NEVER their fault.......it's always the rest of the world that has the problem."

      What is that suppose to mean? So somehow this guy brought it upon himself? In a way you are right. It is his fault for falling in love with a sport that harbors some of the worst examples of americans this country has to offer. I think we know which side of the argument you stand on. You like to blame the victim rather than face reality. I suppose its your wife's/girfriend's fault if they get raped. There are few people on this planet more deserving of "victim" label then the Jewish people. Thats what happens when 6,000,000 are exterminated over the course of 5 years. THEY DESERVE to hold the victim card and play it from time to time. I would say they earned it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Does this honestly surprise anyone? All you have to do is look at the NASCAR fan base.

      A good friend of mine (who loves NASCAR, though that's irrelevant) comes from a small town in Florida, told me that it's not a good idea for me (I'm asian, and actually watched NASCAR growing up in the 80s) to go to one of his local bars without him.

      In the 'south', if you're in a small town and not white or christian, you're going to feel it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      To all --

      The Drive for Diversity program in NASCAR treats religion in the standard way that governments and other bodies do -- gender and ethnicity are considered; religion (which a person can choose and change over the course of a lifetime) is not. Therefore, based on his religion, Jon didn't qualify for consideration in the Drive for Diversity scouting combine that determined the 2008 class.

      NASCAR is a performance-based sport. There are only 43 slots in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Compare that to the hundreds of "jobs" on the field in MLB or NFL. This is a difficult sport to succeed in. Drivers move up the ladder based on performance. Yes, sponsorship is necessary, and team owners who court that critical funding want to win. Neither they, nor the sponors, are at all concerned with a driver's religion.

      I have to say that after these unfortunate allegations appeared, Jews who work for or in the NASCAR industry (our broadcast partners and marketing agencies) contacted me to express their dismay. These individuals all said, in different ways, I'm a proud Jew, I've been working in NASCAR many years, my religion has never been an issue, and I've never encountered anti Semitism in the sport.


      Andrew Giangola
      Director of Business and Multicultural Communications
      • 7 Years Ago
      Maybe he's just not that good. I don't doubt that he catches s**t from some of the good ol boys in NASCAR, but that's almost to be expected.

      -Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem
      • 7 Years Ago
      having some family in small town midwest and some in the south, I am not suprised by what he says.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wow, NASCAR is *so awesome.*
        • 7 Years Ago
        Suddenly, the fanbois seem downright reasonable.
      • 7 Years Ago
      oh and tell me companies and organizations with a mostly jewish following don't affect non-jews the same way. explain hollywood.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Do not equate anti-semitism with Christianity. It may happen but that is an indivdual failing. Jesus was Jewish.
      Success in racing with Jesus? Maybe Maybe not depends on how good a driver you are.

      Eternal life with Jesus? You Bet! i.e. John 3:16.

      By the way John was Jewish also. Have a Great Day!
        • 7 Years Ago
        The fact that Jesus was a Jew is irrelevant. The unfortunate truth is that classical christian anti-Semitism was based on the myhtology of Jews as Christ killers.

        The only real change to this doctrine and education was after Vatican II in the 60's.

        Most of the old boy network grew up in the days when a "Passion Play" was really just an excuse to find some Jewish ass to kick.

        I'm sure NASCAR will come around, but it is a bastion of traditional, if not antiquated values. Other people call it bigitry.
      • 7 Years Ago
      **praying comment section remains mature and civil**

      **sacrifices chicken to ensure it does**

      Don't make me reach for a virgin.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Go right ahead; there are plenty of virgins on the interwebs.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Watching a religious flame war on the internet is even more entertaining than watching car crash at a NASCAR race. Because here you can participate and cause even MORE carnage!"


      "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity.
      When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion."
      --Robert Pirsig

      "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
      -- Thomas Jefferson

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
      --Lucius Seneca

      "I contend that we are all atheists. I just believe in one fewer god
      than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
      --Stephen Henry Roberts

      "The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along
      with those who do not possess it." --Voltaire

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