Refuse to stand during mandatory prayer & the national anthem & expect the boot from this track’s owner

Earlier last week (April 8, 2023) Caprock Motorplex, better known as Penwell Knights Raceway, in Odessa, Texas held their 7th event of the season, an IHRA Bracket Series event.

An overhead shot of Caprock Motorplex aka Penwell Knights Raceway

Presumably, as is tradition before all events, the raceway started off the event with a moment for prayer followed by the playing of the National Anthem of the United States.

According to Odessa resident and event goer John Carl Teague III, in a photo shared on Facebook that’s since gone viral, a couple was photographed sitting during said prayer and national anthem.

Teague captioned the photo that the couple was refunded their gate fees by owner of the track Gary Gardenhire and asked to leave the venue.

Check out the contentious photo and caption below.

Since John’s post went up it’s been shared over 7,000 times and counting with hundreds of comments (now turned off.)

Comments, as you can imagine, were divided, one half supporting Gardenhire’s actions.

“Most of the haters who comment have never been to PKR. They have the freedom to sit, and Gary has the freedom to throw them the f*** out,” commented Paul Fields. Don’t like it…… Texas probably isn’t the place for you!!!!!!!!”

If you didn’t already know, Texas is a deeply conservative state that, when it comes to such sports traditions like playing the national anthem, will even pass legislation to make sure it’s played.

Earlier in 2021 Texas lawmakers passed a bill that would penalize professional sports teams if they don’t play the national anthem before games. Dubbed the “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act,” the Republican backed bill, in a moment of bipartisanship, also received the necessary votes and support from their Democratic counterparts.

Passing the bill emboldened some states to follow the Lone Star States lead with Louisiana and Wisconsin passing similar bills that, according to, would take the “decades-old cultural norm of playing the national anthem before a sporting event into a legal requirement.”

The other half of the commenters disagreed with Gardenhire, pointing out in so many words how it’s hypocritical and arguably Anti-American to compel someone to pray and stand for the national anthem if they don’t want to.

“Nothing says American values quite like forcing your will on other people,” commented David Kiser.

“Conservatives sure do love their freedom as long as you do it exactly the way they want to,” commented Hason Michael. “Nothing says, “I’m free” like forcing people to pray to a magic cloth.”

While some commenters say this is a violation of the 1st Amendment, it’s worth pointing out that Penwell Knights Raceway is a private business.

“Constitutional provisions safeguarding individual rights place limits on the government and its agents, but not on private institutions or individuals,” says the First Amendment Encyclopedia.

So, while Gardenhire’s actions might be off-putting, he’s within his rights to do so as long as the rule is applied fairly to all individuals.

Since Teague’s post went viral, Caprock Motorsports Complex’s Facebook has been inundated with negative comments on their posts and presumably in their personal messages.

As of this blog post, they’ve closed their Facebook page.

While you may not want to pray and stand for the national anthem, as far as attending a Penwell Knights Raceway event is concerned, if you don’t want to leave early, it seems like you have no choice.

Personally, if my conviction to not pray and stand for the national anthem was stronger than my need to watch drag racing, I’d just arrive after said ceremonies.

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?


  1. Wow, so that’s what “land of the FREE, home of the BRAVE” means???
    Also, the constitutional “Freedom of Religion”, means you can choose any religion – or choose NOT to practice a religon.


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