BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The first weekend, he sat at home. The second, he and his girlfriend "got away."
He did not watch races. He had no desire to, he said.
Jeremy Clements, suspended two races for violating NASCAR's Code of Conduct policy, is back behind the wheel of his family-owned NASCAR Nationwide Series entry for this weekend's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He's hoping to leave the past behind.
"Unfortunately, it's the way of the world," Clements, 29, said moments after wrapping up a press conference with a dozen or so media members at the rear of his team's transporter. "We had a lot of good runs last year; we run on such a very small budget. I wish we could get a little more attention for how good we do a lot of the time instead of something like this happening."
NASCAR officials announced Feb. 27 that Clements had been suspended indefinitely for the use of a racial slur while speaking with an MTV blogger at Daytona International Speedway. Upon his completion of an individualized program, developed and overseen by Dr. Richard Lapchick and the National Consortium for Academics and Sports, NASCAR officials cleared Clements to return to competition.
"Like I said, it doesn't represent who I am at all," Clements said of the comment. "It's just a bad deal. I didn't want to be known for any of this. That's why I keep saying I want to right the wrong and show people I'm not about that at all."
He enters Saturday's Nationwide Series race 37th in driver points.
Clements, who comes from a racing family that sprouted up in Spartanburg, S.C., two generations ago, finished 33rd in the season-opening event at Daytona. Ryan Sieg competed for the team at Phoenix and Las Vegas in Clements' absence.
Reading from a prepared statement earlier, Clements apologized to officials, his team, family and fans of the sport. His use of the term, he said, "doesn't represent who I am or how I was raised."
"My grandpa, Crawford Clements, who I looked up to and respected and got me started racing when I was 7, was a crew chief for Wendell Scott in 1965," Clements said. "I was raised to respect everybody."
Scott, who competed in NASCAR from 1961-73, is the only black driver to win in NASCAR's Cup series.
No longer on the sidelines, a contrite Clements says he just wants to move forward.
"I have never been in trouble with NASCAR," he said. "I always just try to do the right thing and just stay here and be able to race. I always try to get new fans coming (to races) and do anything NASCAR wants. I hope it doesn't hurt (my career). I don't know."
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