NASCAR drivers stood behind racer Bubba Wallace on Monday, presenting a unified front with the circuit’s only Black competitor after he reported finding a noose in his racetrack garage stall.
Wallace tweeted a picture of the moving image, just ahead of the rain-delayed Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, with a one-word caption: “Together.”
About 24 hours earlier, a member of Wallace’s team told race officials about finding a noose in their garage stall.
Wallace finished 14th out of 40 drivers Monday and thanked fans after the race.
“This is probably the most badass moment right here,” he said. “It’s just been hectic you know, carrying this weight, this burden. I wouldn’t really say burden, either. I’m proud to stand where I’m at and carry a new face.”
Several of the fans who greeted Wallace were wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts.
“Look at this,” Wallace said as he turned to the fans. “Is this the first time you’re here? From Atlanta? That is so cool! The sport is changing.”
As he spoke to a Fox interviewer, Wallace apologized for not wearing a mask.
“I wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile and I’m going to keep on going,” he said.
Before the race on Monday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said anyone responsible for the threat will be “caught and dealt with swiftly and severely.”
“This is a difficult time for our sport but we are going to react swiftly and again we’re going to use all the means, resources at our disposal and of those of the FBI to make sure this person or persons are caught and dealt with swiftly and severely,” Phelps told reporters.
“There’s no room for this at all and we won’t tolerate it.”
Wallace races for Richard Petty Motorsports, and the Hall of Fame racer said he stands in complete support of the driver.
“I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team,” Petty said in statement on Monday. “There is absolutely no place in our sport or our society for racism. This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change.”
Petty added: “I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day forwards.”
But Wallace’s mother, Desiree Wallace, told a radio host on Monday that her son had faced racism before on the track.
“This is not his first incident,” she said on SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show.” “If he gets into it with another driver they’re quick to bring out the n-word.”
Earlier this month, NASCAR, a bedrock of Southern culture, banned the Confederate flag from all of its events.
The unexpected move happened in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which has sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
Dustin Long contributed.