NASCAR officials vowed to “do everything we can” to investigate an incident in which a noose was found Sunday in the stall of Bubba Wallace’s team at Talladega Superspeedway, overshadowing Monday’s completion of the race.
Wallace, the only full-time African American driver in the stock-car circuit’s elite Cup Series, called it a “despicable act of racism and hatred [that] leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society.”
NASCAR said in a statement that the noose was discovered in the late afternoon, on a day when its Cup Series race in Alabama — the first to have any fans in attendance since the organization banned all displays of the Confederate flag after Wallace pushed for such a move — will resume at 3 p.m. Eastern time.
The incident left Dale Earnhardt Jr. with one wish. “Hope Bubba wins it,” he tweeted early Monday morning.
“We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” NASCAR said. “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.”
In a statement on social media, Wallace declared the act shows “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,” he added. “Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone.
Wallace has said that in the wake of his call for NASCAR to ban the flag, he has received messages of support, including from some people who say they are following the sport for the first time. However, he has also been the subject of considerable anger and even threats, he told The Washington Post recently.
“They see me as somebody who’s tearing down their heritage,” Wallace said of those angry about the ban. “But we’re not trying to close the door on you; we’re opening the door to many others that want to be a part of this sport.”
While sharing NASCAR’s statement about the discovery of the noose, Cup Series driver Michael McDowell tweeted Sunday, “God help us. The level of evil it takes to do something like this is disgusting. This is enraging and heartbreaking all at the same time.” [Washington Post]