Long been associated with the South, moonshiners, and the Confederate flag; NASCAR has turned a new leaf in recent years to become a more diverse sport that welcomes racers from every corner of the world.
Seeking more diversity, NASCAR currently has a number of Canadian drivers in the Gander Outdoors and RV Truck Series and Xfinity Series, the NASCAR Cup Series features Mexican born Daniel Suarez and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace who is a biracial driver.
NASCAR’s most recent efforts to end racism and exercise more diversity has been to ban the use of the Confederate flag at all NASCAR events. The effort was put forth several years ago by then president Bill France but after Bubba Wallace pushed for the move, NASCAR has acted and enacted the ban.
While there were no signs of the Confederate flag inside Talladega Speedway, they flew freely outside the track.
But there was something left at the track…while the teams were waiting for the rains to stop, someone left a noose in the garage stall of the number 43 car.
The incident is being investigated by federal authorities.
During pre-race festivities, every driver joined Bubba Wallace as they pushed his car to the front of the field in a show of support and solidarity. After standing with Bubba during the playing of the National Anthem, each driver gave Bubba a hug.
In recent weeks, Wallace has worn an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt during pre-race events, has driven a car with the “Black Lives Matter” paint scheme, and pushed NASCAR to eliminate the Confederate flag from NASCAR tracks. Through it all, Wallace’s fellow drivers have shown their support for his cause.
Talladega track workers showed their support for Bubba by painting “#IStandWithBubba” on the infield grass.
Several of the drivers including have made a commercial Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr to ask for solidarity and change in the wake of recent events.
At the track for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 82 year old car owner Richard Petty was also in attendance to stand with his driver. Petty issued a statement saying, “I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team. 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. The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed, and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR. I believe in my heart this despicable act is not representative of the competitors I see each day in the NASCAR garage area. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba, yesterday, today, tomorrow and every day forward.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps also noted that he could not speak on any details of the investigation but said, “there is no place for racism in NASCAR. This act only strengthens our resolve to make this sport open and welcoming to all.” Phelps noted that once caught, the perpetrator would be expelled from NASCAR saying, “unequivocally they will be banned from this sport for life. There is no room for this at all. We won’t tolerate it. They won’t be here. I don’t care who they are, they will not be here.”
With safety protocols still in place, many of the areas around the track that would normally be open to fans are restricted including the garage area. Only essential NASCAR and team personnel have access to the garage.
Phelps added, ‘the drivers feel very strongly that they want to show their support of Bubba. He’s a member of the NASCAR community. He’s a member of the NASCAR family. The outpouring of support over the last couple weeks from our drivers, from the industry as a whole, from the fans, has been phenomenal. Whatever happens, it’s going to happen organically. It will be heartfelt. I’m looking forward to whatever they come up with.”
feature photo credit: NASCAR’s Facebook page