On the surface, Brooke Humphries appears just like any of the other NASCAR fans assembled on the infield this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
A grill for feeding time, a colorful array of liquor bottles on a foldout table converted into a bar top, and a hat — emblazoned with Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 — to publicize her preference in Sprint Cup’s Chase for the Championship, which continues with Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
But there’s a point that she parts with NASCAR’s red sea.
Humphries, of Dallas, is a Hillary Clinton supporter.
“Don’t get me killed,” Humphries joked as a visitor asked her if she wouldn’t mind discussing her preference for president. “The one Hillary supporter at Texas Motor Speedway, and there she is up on Big Hoss.”
Humphries undoubtedly is not the only Clinton supporter on hand for this weekend’s NASCAR races. But she is indeed one of the very select few.
In a survey that was anything but scientific polling, Humphries was the only Clinton supporter who emerged during a two-hour search of the infield grounds.
“There are no Hillary supporters in NASCAR. Maybe one in 70,000,” declared Danny Carter of Artesia, N.M., who was outfitted in the novelty Flair Hair visor with a wig of gray shooting straight back in the spirit of the Heat Miser, and a T-shirt his daughter made and gifted him. On the back, it read “I don’t always talk to Hillary supporters, but when I do I ask for large fries.”
“I will vote for anybody except Hillary,” he said.
It’s no secret that NASCAR turns left but leans right — sometimes way right — on issues related to civics.
On display this weekend were continuous shows of southern defiance with Confederate battle flags waving in the wind, though those demonstrations are fewer and fewer as the years go by. A pickup truck full of Trumpians rode by in the infield, Trump flags blazing, and a portable toilet included a crudely designed sign that indicated it was a place to pull the lever for Clinton.
On Sunday, racer Reed Sorenson will pilot the No. 55 Trump-Pence red, white, and blue Toyota, somewhat of an irony in light of the candidate’s vow to bring industry to America. On the hood, trunk and sides are Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
“I have no problem with that,” Humphries said. “I already know what I’m getting into when I come to NASCAR. NASCAR isn’t a political venue for me. I come because I love racing.
“The same reason I’m free to vote for Hillary, everybody has the same reason to vote for Trump. I can’t deny that right to anybody. I tend to not talk politics because they don’t want to hear anything I have to say. We were just in Talledega, and the people next to us had ‘Rednecks for Trump.’ That’s their right just as much as it is mine.”
Coexisting shouldn’t really be much of a surprise.
If there’s any one rule about NASCAR Nation it’s that conformity is thrown to the wind. Conventionality and orthodoxy is not part of the philosophy of most who follow the sport. Rather, it’s an independent streak and free-thinking spirit that defines them.
This is a sport after all that evolved from bootlegging moonshiners defying and outrunning the law in souped up hot rods. A culture emerged emphasizing that your survival in this dog-eat-dog world depends on you and you alone, so to each his own while doing what you need to do.
NASCAR matured in the Yellow Dog Democrat Deep South, and as the political landscape changed over the last 50 years, so did NASCAR. Most would simply assume that change in party politics reflected NASCAR’s displeasure in the progress in civil rights among minorities. NASCAR co-founder Bill France was a well-documented friend of Gov. George Wallace, a segregationist.
Another notable political statement came in Darlington in 1992 when NASCAR legend Richard Petty gave Bill Clinton, then a candidate, a snub, declining a picture with the then-candidate, saying: “People might get the wrong idea. I just don't agree with the cat’s politics.”
Yet, Cale Yarborough was a Jimmy Carter man. And Junior Johnson was a Barack Obama man.
Johnson, one of NASCAR’s original bootleggers and Hall of Famer, did what would be perceived as the unthinkable and endorsed Obama in 2008.
“Every day I talk to someone else who’s never voted for a Democrat, but now they’re voting for Barack Obama,” Johnson said in 2008. “They realize that Barack understands what we’re going through here in North Carolina. And they’re ready for change.
“So I’ve made up my mind, and I’m ready to get involved. I know that I could never have won a race without my pit crew, and I know Barack can’t win this one without us.”
Obama won North Carolina, a hub of the NASCAR organization, in 2008, though the state went with Mitt Romney four years later. That despite a Zogby poll showing that Obama enjoyed the support of NASCAR fans nationwide over Romney. Two days before this year’s election, the state is considered a toss-up.
Any spark of a real love affair with Obama among NASCAR racers was quickly put out. In 2011, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart all declined invites to visit the White House after the season, though Harvick and Stewart have made visits since.
Among NASCAR fans, a poll by Zogby in August showed Trump had erased the deficit Romney faced, though Clinton is well represented with support. Trump held an eight-point lead over Clinton with NASCAR fans. That might or might not reflect controversial public support Trump received in March during the Republican primary from NASCAR chairman Brian France and several retired and active drivers, including Mark Martin and Chase Elliott.
Though the shows of support for Trump this weekend were numerous, most in this anecdotal survey were motivated less by Trump’s ideas and persona than voting against Clinton. Most comments mirrored polls that have shown Clinton suffering in personal appeal, particularly those surveying honesty and trustworthiness.
“I think in general, Hillary is not a very likeable person,” said Chad Chadwick of Arlington. “Obama is very charismatic. Even if people don’t agree with his policies, you can still like him. She is very unlikeable to me.”
Joe Vella of Houston described himself as a registered Democrat voting for Trump because, citing Wikileaks disclosures and allegations of wrongdoing as secretary of state and through her family’s Clinton Foundation: “There’s so much crap that she has done there is no way I could trust her. Not at all.” Vella added that he would almost certainly have voted for Bernie Sanders, whom “Trump should be running against,” he said, in a general election.
None of that fits the candidate Humphries believes she knows.
In Hillary, she sees a NASCAR driver of the old-school: tough, aggressive and smart while perhaps at times being a little rough around the edges.
“I think she’s a badass. She’s tough as nails. One tough mother …,” Humphries said stopping short of completing what generally follows in that string of vulgarity. “They’re all politicians. So every one of them lies, every one of them does.
“I just don’t buy into the 30-year propaganda of her being the devil. I don’t buy into that. As a woman, I do have unbelievable admiration for someone who can go through all the hell that they’ve put her through. She’s tough as nails. That woman is made of steel.”
AAA Texas 500
1 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/Ch. 5