Josh Reaume, the owner and part-time driver for the Reaume Brothers Racing team in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR this week for a behavioral violation. In the wake of the suspension announcement from NASCAR, the cause for the suspension was revealed, in a report from Kickin the Tires, to be a photo that Reaume, 30, posted to Snapchat of a Toaster Strudel snack that allegedly had a swastika drawn on the pastry with the icing.
Following hateful social media responses toward Reaume from this report and even more after his subsequent apology on Twitter, Reaume agreed to an exclusive interview with TobyChristie.com to set the record straight on what happened. Reaume, who has had a whirlwind week due to the suspension news, explained that he has had to delete his Twitter account due to the incredible rate of hate-filled tweets that were coming his way. These overwhelmingly negative tweets have really rocked the driver from a mental standpoint.
“Well, I don’t know if you’d call them death threats. I deleted a lot of stuff. I deleted my Twitter last night,” Reaume said. “Everybody is telling me to stay off it, but I wake up in the middle of the night, roll over and see, ‘I hope your wife leaves you,’ and ‘I hope you lose everything you have and get to see your whole world crash before you pull the trigger,’ and, ‘Nazi lover should go crawl in a hole and die,’ you name it man. So maybe not a death threat, but definitely ill-wishes. But on a mass level, it definitely messes with you, you know?”
Reaume addressed the photo in our interview, but the thing that Reaume stressed the most in our chat was his absolute remorse for the families who were affected by The Holocaust and how he doesn’t feel there is ever a proper time to joke about a genocide.
“From the absolute deepest part of my heart, I extend my condolences for how their families suffered,” Reaume stated. “And I apologize how anything that has come out has offended them or stirred up memories or brought pain into their lives. I sympathize with them in any way that I can. I have my own family. I have uncles and grandfathers that fought in World War II and I thought what transpired during that time in the world is absolutely terrible. My view on that will never change, nothing will ever change that. There’s some things you don’t joke about and that’s one of them. When you have genocide of almost an entire people like that, a million-plus people (Roughly 11-million total people perished in The Holocaust, six-million Jewish people and five-million on Jewish people, according to a 2017 article from The Washington Post), that’s just not something that you say, ‘Oh it’s been long enough, let’s joke about it.'”
So, what exactly happened? According to Reaume, what the frosting design ended up looking like was not a premeditated plan. Reaume says the icing on his snack remotely resembling a swastika happened by sheer happenstance.
“It is accurate in some senses. I will tell you that I am trying to get a copy of the image. I don’t have one,” Reaume explained. “What happened was, I made a toaster strudel, I put icing on it. I put icing on it arbitrarily. I can — now, that this has become such a significant thing in my life, everything is crystal clear now in what I was thinking. I was mindlessly putting icing on a toaster strudel thinking about how I was going to arrange to get my daughter to day care in the morning because that’s my responsibility and I was flying out to Phoenix the next day.
“When I was done, I took a picture, I wrote, ‘Snack time,’ and posted it to my Snapchat, which I had no idea it was even more than my immediate friend group. [The account is] private, it’s not even under my name, to my knowledge. Now, shame on me for maybe not fully understanding SnapChat, and I don’t care to get on social media in the immediate future, but somebody obviously screenshotted it or did something with it and pushed it to NASCAR. I don’t know what the image looks like.”
*Editor’s Note: Reaume has disclosed to TobyChristie.com that NASCAR has issued him a copy of the photo since this interview was conducted.
Reaume truly feels that the alleged swastika was nothing more than a misunderstanding, but is it possible that the photo was misunderstood or even worse — edited to look like a swastika?
“That’s the game you have to play in your head now,” Reaume explained. “Did I — so, if you asked me point blank questions and you asked me, ‘Josh, did you intend to draw a swastika on a toaster strudel?’ the answer would be no. If you said, ‘Are you a Nazi and do you hate people?’ The answer to both of those questions would be no. So, what the image looks like right now, I don’t know. In the situation I’m in now, I play games in my head like, is this really blatant? Does it look blatant? Does it look like a tic-tac-toe game on a toaster strudel or is it going to look like the image that’s being circulated?”
The image being circulated that Reaume referenced started being spread on Twitter and was being touted as the photo that Reaume shared to Snapchat, however this was false. Rather, the image being passed around seemed to be an old meme of some sort. Still, Jalopnik and others picked up on the fictitious photo and from there it was downhill for Reaume.
While Jalopnik did issue an update to their story explaining that the photo that was embedded in their story was not the actual photo, many will likely never see the update and will assume that is what the Toaster Strudel looked like. Regardless of what the photo appeared to be, Reaume maintains that it was not a goal of his to showcase one of the most iconic signs of evil on his snack.
“There was not a bone in my body that had an intent of doing that,” Reaume explained.
As far as the repercussions for his race team, Reaume states that his team doesn’t have the depth to sustain a long-term suspension like other larger teams in the sport — such as Chip Ganassi Racing, who faced a suspension of Kyle Larson earlier in the year — can.
“I didn’t obviously intend on creating situation for myself. And I don’t have the depth of the team that maybe some other drivers and owners would have. So, navigating through this is a little challenging, I think.
While the waters are certainly choppy, as no team owner wants to be ensnarled in a controversy such as this, has Reaume lost any sponsors or potential drivers due to the suspension at this time?
“Nobody has said that, yet, but I think everybody is waiting to see how this is handled,” Reaume answered.
While the suspension is indefinite, Reaume is required to complete sensitivity training before he is allowed back into the sport, and he intends to do so. If Reaume sticks to the plan in place, he could be reinstated before Daytona in February.
“My knowledge is that I can start sensitivity training next week, and if that goes well and based on my aggressiveness on the sensitivity training, I could be reinstated in January,” Reaume said.
If Reaume could get back behind the wheel without missing a single race, that would be a massive deal for his little race team, which has been an incredible underdog story over the past few seasons. If Reaume genuinely didn’t mean to stir up controversy with his Snapchat post, does he hold any grudge with NASCAR for the suspension? Not at all.
“NASCAR has their image and NASCAR is a big organization and I think it’s important that I recognize and respect that they have to protect that image,” Reaume said. “I can say whatever I want, but if someone sees that a car owner posts a picture of a swastika, they need to go through the motions and take action. I understand that and I would do something similar if I saw one of my employees or an official member of my team that did something that wasn’t in line with our values and beliefs.”
Reaume sounds truly genuine in his explanation of the events that transpired which led to his suspension. And he seems definitely impassioned to complete the necessary steps to return behind the wheel in the NASCAR National Series ranks. The driver, who hails from California and once lived in Africa, which is where he picked up the nickname the African Squirrel, has a best finish of sixth in 52-career NGROTS starts. That finish came at Daytona International Speedway in 2012.
Reaume’s character away from the track had been considered very good, until the questionable Snapchat post, of course.
His Reaume Brothers Racing team, which fielded 70 entries in the NGROTS and the NASCAR Xfinity Series (through a partnership with RSS Racing’s No. 93 team) through the season, featured several charitable causes on the bed of their truck during the 2020 campaign.
Some of the many charity or awareness groups that have been featured on the RBR trucks this past season include: Anxiety and Depression Society of America, FRAXA Research Foundation and The Wounded Blue.
Reaume’s Snapchat post is the latest in a long line of lessons learned this season as far as social media is concerned in NASCAR. NASCAR Truck Series team owner Ray Ciccarelli made headlines for the wrong reasons when a post on his personal Facebook page went viral following NASCAR’s ban on the confederate flag. Ciccarelli wasn’t suspended for his comments, but it was an eye-raising moment that made national headlines.
NASCAR Xfinity Series part-time driver Mike Wallace was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for an insensitive Facebook post, however, it still hasn’t been publicly disclosed what was contained in that post. Wallace has been required to take part in sensitivity training in order to return to the sport, but so far the 61-year old has shown no signs of wanting to comply with that stipulation.
Notices of correction
- The Holocaust was not originally capitalized in this story, that has been corrected.
- Statistical clarity has been added to Reaume’s quote referencing the amount of people who perished in The Holocaust.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.