Throwback paint schemes on racecars and retro logos and signs welcomed Nascar fans when they arrived at Darlington Raceway this weekend for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 Sprint Cup race. The marketing campaign was designed to make one of the most storied tracks on the circuit look like the early 1970s all over again.
Fans were more than happy to complete the picture, much to Nascar’s dismay. The Confederate flags they raised on R.V.s across the infield and outside the track dotted the sky above Darlington on Friday morning, as they have for decades here. The Southern 500, after all, was long known for playing “Dixie” as its anthem and used to feature a character named Johnny Reb — a man dressed as a Confederate soldier who stood atop the winning car with a rebel flag.
As those Confederate flags waved once more on Friday, Nascar faced its recurring quandary: How could a sport so closely associated with its Southern roots broaden its appeal nationally without alienating that base?
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