There are many ways to celebrate Southern heritage at NASCAR races that don't involve the Confederate battle flag, Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Tuesday.
"We celebrate our Southern heritage every time we race at Darlington, for example, or when we go to Daytona," he told "Squawk Box," referring to raceways in South Carolina and Florida. "We tie a lot of what we do into representing and acknowledging, recognizing the military. We'll do that this weekend coming up at Daytona."
Earnhardt recently reiterated his opposition to the flag, saying in an interview with USAToday that it belonged in the history books. The NASCAR pro made his comments after the killings of nine African-American congregants at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white gunman.
The incident has stoked a national dialogue about public displays of Confederate imagery, which some view as a symbol of racism and others see as an important part of Southern history.
Following the event, NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France said the organization would work "aggressively" to disassociate itself from the Confederate flag, calling it "an offensive and divisive symbol." NASCAR policy prevents the use of the flag in any official capacity.
Earnhardt acknowledged that stock car racing got its start in the Southeast and many of the sports fans still reside there.
Steve Letarte, Earnhardt's former pit boss and current NBC Sports analyst, said NASCAR's schedule has changed considerably since the mid-'90s, when a "huge percentage" of races were held in the Southeast.
"Since then we've gone into Las Vegas, and to Texas, and to Kansas, and we've expanded across the country," he told "Squawk Box." "I think as the sport grows, so doesn't all the things that go with it. You have to understand that you're now nationwide and truly worldwide."
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