NASCAR racers, their pit crews, and other racing staff at Talladega showed their support and solidarity behind Bubba Wallace on Monday, the only Black driver in the top level of the racing organization, after a symbol of hatred and racism was found in his team’s garage over the weekend.
A noose was discovered by Wallace’s team on Sunday, the day that the Geico 500 had originally been slated to take place (the race was delayed to Monday due to bad weather). The Department of Justice is currently investigating the matter.
The racist symbol prompted a response from Wallace through his Twitter account the same evening it was found.
“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace wrote.
The racecar driver has been a strong proponent of racial equality and inclusion for the sport, including racing in a “Black Lives Matter” car last week, and calling on NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag at its events, which the organization agreed to doing earlier this month.
The display of the battle flag “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement announcing the banning of the symbol.
Following the discovery of the noose in Wallace’s garage, his fellow teammates and their crews demonstrated a commitment to supporting the driver, by walking alongside his number 43 car and pushing it to the front of the pack on Monday.
Upon reaching that point, a clearly emotional Wallace, wiping away tears, hugged his fellow competitors, thanking them for the gesture. Wallace also embraced legendary NASCAR personality Richard Petty, who came out to show support for the driver in his first appearance at a racing event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Wallace is also a part of Petty’s racing team.
My family. pic.twitter.com/031TvNDopA
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 23, 2020
After the conclusion of the race, Wallace, who finished in 14th place, described how he was feeling earlier in the day.
“The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life from all the supporters, from drivers, from crew members, from everybody here, the badass fan base, thank you guys for coming out here,” Wallace said. “This is truly incredible and I’m glad to be a part of this sport.”
Ryan Blaney, the driver who won the Geico 500 and one of Wallace’s closest friends in the sport, also discussed the matter in greater detail.
“I support him 100 percent,” Blaney said of Wallace. “I’m always going to be behind him and if you run afoul of Bubba you run afoul of me.”