PGA Tour golfer Bubba Watson -- stick with us here, we know where we're going -- owns one of the original General Lee cars, which he won at auction last month. Watson's also a close enough friend of driver Denny Hamlin that he's invited Hamlin to caddy for him at Augusta in April. And Watson, a Phoenix resident, wants to drive his new purchase around Phoenix International Raceway when Hamlin and the rest of NASCAR head there next month.
Alas, it's not to be. Watson, the honorary grand marshal, won't be permitted to drive the General Lee on the track. In other words, NASCAR did what Boss Hogg couldn't:
"NASCAR, International Speedway Corp. and Phoenix International Raceway officials discussed this and decided it was not in the best interest of our sport,'' NASCAR said in a statement. "The image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive." Watson acknowledged the news without comment on Twitter.
This is going to rile up hardcore fans, but so be it. NASCAR has to play to a larger fanbase now; when your marquee event (the Daytona 500) draws 30 million viewers, you can't afford to appear attached to, shall we say, controversial symbols like the Confederate flag.
Score one for The Man. But we have a feeling Bubba will be back. Him n' the Duke boys are just cookin' somethin' up, we can feel it.
- Bubba Watson
- Denny Hamlin
- Phoenix International Raceway