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Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements explained in detail Thursday exactly how he finds himself suspended indefinitely from NASCAR competition.
In a one-on-one interview with ESPN, Clements would not verbalize the specific comments he made, but when pressed for clarity about whether or not it was racial, he paused. Asked again, "Was it racial or not? Maybe not in context, but in term?" Clements replied: "Correct."
"When you say 'racial' remark, it wasn't used to describe anybody or anything," Clements said. "So that's all I'm going to say to that. And it really wasn't. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn't have said it. It shouldn't be used at all."
A source told ESPN.com's David Newton on Wednesday that Clements was banned for using a racial slur while talking to a reporter. NASCAR officials wouldn't offer specifics on what Clements said, only that it was an "intolerable and insensitive remark" that violated the sanctioning body's Code of Conduct for actions detrimental to stock car racing.
When you say racial remark, it wasn't used to describe anybody or anything. So that's all I'm going to say to that. And it really wasn't. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn't have said it. It shouldn't be used at all.” -- Jeremy Clements, on remark he made that led to suspension
Clements said he only said the word once. The remarks, he said, were made Saturday following the driver's meeting at Daytona International Speedway. Upon exiting the meeting, Clements said a female NASCAR employee who was escorting a reporter from MTV approached him.
According to Clements, the NASCAR employee asked him if he knew the location of driver Johanna Long's transporter. He did, and said he escorted the pair to the transporter personally.
"And while we're walking they started, he [MTV] started, asking me questions," Clements said. "And it wasn't recorded. We were just talking. So I said one remark about how I wouldn't ..."
He stopped short.
"I can't say that part," he said.
"That's pretty much how it happened," he continued. "And even after I said what I said, they still kept asking me questions. It didn't seem like it was a big deal at all. I didn't even think twice about it, like, after. I know I shouldn't have said it. Even when I did say it, I shouldn't have said it. But I didn't think it was going to be a big deal."
The remark lands Clements in NASCAR suspension for a minimum of two races, he said. He also said he must undergo some sort of speech advisement, the details of which he did not have at the time of the interview.
So if the comment wasn't recorded, how did it come to light?
"Because I was an honest person," he said. "There was just three people standing there when I said this. And it was me, a girl that works for NASCAR and the MTV guy. There was no cameras. No recording. No nothing."
Clements said he had attended church Sunday night, and upon exiting noticed a pair of messages on his phone from NASCAR.
"I had two more messages and I was like, golly, something's just not right," he said. "So I called back, and the guy asked me point-blank: 'Hey, did you say this word?' And I said, 'Yes, I did.' I was being honest. I did. I messed up. It was just one word and it wasn't about anybody. It wasn't even used as that."
Clements said his emotions "are pretty bad. I'm pretty hurt, for sure. I've never gotten into trouble with NASCAR. Not one time. We're just a small family team, just trying to survive and run the whole season. This is our third full season. And I was supposed to be on a plane right now going to Phoenix to race.
"And then this hit me late [Wednesday] afternoon. I've known about it since Sunday night, when I got a phone call. But I did not think it was going to be like this. I just thought I'd be fined like most normal guys have been fined.
"But not suspended for this. But I'm going to do what they want me to do so I can get back in the car as soon as possible. I think it's a little harsh, but it's their rules. It's their game."
Information from ESPN.com's David Newton was used in this report.