Jeremy Clements is back at the racetrack and eager to put his recent NASCAR suspension – and the reason for it – behind him.
The driver was suspended following the season-opening race for uttering a racial slur when talking with a media member. As part of his process toward reinstatement, Clements met with Dr. Richard Lapchick at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.
He missed the races at Phoenix International Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. On Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Clements addressed the media concerning his remarks.
He apologized for making a “remark that has no place in our society,” adding that “I didn’t mean to offend anyone at all; I’m sorry I let you all down. It doesn’t represent who I am or how I was raised.”
Clements added that his grandfather 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.
“I was raised to respect everybody,” Clements said. “This has been a challenging time for me. I want to grow from it and help other people from it. Any time a race car driver gets sat out any amount of time, it’s the worst thing that could happen to anybody. You don’t want to watch anybody drive your car that you’re supposed to be driving. So I had a lot of time to thank about my actions.”
He personally paid for his classes with Lapchick. While a sponsor offered to cover the cost of that, Clements said he felt that it was the right thing for him to do. He’s now at Bristol, carrying the logos and wearing the driver suit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Clements struggled to put into words just how difficult this period has been for him. The Nationwide Series driver is in his eight season of running at least part time in the series. At 28, he’s one of a crop of young drivers trying to get a foothold in the sport.
He said that he had a lot of support, both from friends and fellow drivers, throughout his suspension period. And he labors to both apologize for and distance himself from the comments he made. Overall, he said that most of his sponsors have stood by him, though he has lost one.
Clements said that he knew from the moment he made the remark that he shouldn’t have.
“Honestly, I was just walking along trying to help the guys find somebody else," he said. "I just blurted it out and as soon as I did, I knew I didn’t do good. I knew I messed up. But it’s too late. And I just kept talking. It was stupid.”
It wasn’t long until he discovered just how costly his comment would be. He’s paid for his class – one where he learned the origins of words and who different terms offend – and lost race winnings. He’s missed two races, which will drop him dramatically in the driver and owner points, which will also translate into money lost at season’s end – money a small team vitally depends on as it tries to make its way in the series.
Now, he has one goal — “to put all this behind me and move on.”
And, in the process, show that the remark that brought him unwanted attention is not representative of the person he is.
“It has no representation of who I am," he said. "Hopefully I just want to get that out of the way and make it right, show who I really am.”