Noose Found in Garage Stall of Bubba Wallace at Talladega Sunday
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing protests that stemmed from the death of George Floyd, NASCAR has been a beacon of light, giving sports fans something to look forward to each week. It’s been a hectic schedule since the circuit returned last month at Darlington. Still, it has been a positive for the circuit as ratings have been up and there has been plenty of good press about what has transpired. The circuit even made the decision to remove the Confederate flag from all broadcasts, events and properties earlier this month.
Of course, with every positive bit of news, there has to be some pushback, and it came in full force on Sunday. At Talladega Speedway on Sunday, a Confederate flag was flown above the track from a plane along with a banner saying “Defund NASCAR.” Sadly, this event paled in comparison to what unfolded on the ground, dampening the momentum that the circuit had generated over the past five-plus weeks.
Bubba Wallace, the lone black driver on the NASCAR Cup circuit and driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports 43 car, who was at the forefront of the movement to get the Confederate flag removed from NASCAR tracks, found himself a target on Sunday afternoon. A noose was found in his garage stall on Sunday, though it wasn’t seen by Wallace. It was a crew member of his team that located it and notified other personnel. With no fans allowed in the infield for the race, one has to think that the individual who left it had credentials to be in the garage area.
For their part, NASCAR was infuriated with what transpired and made their thoughts clear with their statement regarding the incident:
"Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all."
NASCAR plans on working with local law enforcement to try and get to the bottom of the situation as well. For his part, Wallace spoke out about the incident, expressing his opinions and thoughts via Twitter:
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. Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.
It's clear that the tensions are still escalating and this latest action is one that is merely going to add fuel to a blaze that has been raging for several weeks now. Both NASCAR and Wallace are dealing with the situation in the best possible way at this point in time. It’s going to take time and effort to get down to who was responsible for such a callous, premeditated action. How NASCAR deals with the perpetrator once they are identified will go a long way toward driving public reaction in one direction or the other. There simply is no coherent rationale to drive this sort of behavior in the current times.
Kudos to Wallace for saying the right things and also the rest of the NASCAR community standing behind him. That show of camaraderie is the equivalent of a tour de force that could, at least theoretically, help tamp down some of the individuals that may try to foment future problems as they realize that there is no division between the drivers. While they may be competitors on the track, when it comes to being off the track, they look out for one another. As for Wallace, he and the rest of the field will get a crack at taking the checkered flag at Talladega on Monday afternoon as the race Sunday was postponed due to rain. Green flag time is scheduled for just after 3 pm ET.