Bubba Wallace. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Noose found inside black driver’s garage

NASCAR has revealed a noose was found in African-American driver Bubba Wallace's garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway.

On Monday, NASCAR released a statement confirming they had launched an immediate investigation into the "heinous act". Wallace is the only full-time Black driver in NASCAR's elite Cup series.

"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," NASCAR said in a statement.

"We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport."

Wallace responded to the "despicable act" on Twitter. Although he was "incredibly saddened" by the incident, he refused to be deterred by the act of racism.

"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 on Monday.

"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. As my mother told me today, 'They are just trying to scare you.'

"This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in."

The incident has disgusted America. Wall Street Journal sports writer Jason Gay described it as "an absolute disgrace" while the Action Network's Darren Rovell said it was "gross".

NBA superstar LeBron James called the incident "sickening" on Twitter.

"Know you don't stand alone! I'm right here with you as well as every other athlete," James posted.

"I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports!

"@NASCAR I salute you as well."

Two weeks ago, Wallace successfully pushed for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and properties.

Dozens of people outside the Talladega Superspeedway track proudly displayed Confederate flags, some flying them from pick-up trucks. A plane was also spotted pulling a banner of the Southern symbol and the wording "DEFUND NASCAR".

There weren't any immediate reports of how many, if any, flags were confiscated or taken down at the venue after NASCAR said it would ban the Confederate flag at its tracks.

The ban drew informal protests, with cars and pick-up trucks driving along nearby roads flying the flag and parading past the entrance to the superspeedway, along with the plane.

NASCAR did not acknowledge the plane or its banner. However, executive Steve O'Donnell tweeted a picture of black and white hands shaking: "You won't see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here … but you will see this … Hope EVERYONE enjoys the race today."

The 26-year-old Bubba Wallace.
The 26-year-old Bubba Wallace.

Rapper Ice Cube even tweeted about the plane saying, "(Expletive) him NASCAR, you got new fans in this household."

David Radvansky, a fan who started coming to Talladega in the 1990s when his father parked cars at races, applauded NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flags.

"I don't think there's a place for it in NASCAR, to be honest with you," the 32-year-old said. "That doesn't sit well with all the good ole boys but it is what it is."

Directly across from the track, Ed Sugg's merchandise tent flew Confederate flags prominently in a display alongside Trump for 2020 banners and an American flag.

"They're doing very well," said the Helena, Alabama resident, who has been selling an array of wares at NASCAR races for 21 years.

"People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance. It's been around for as long as all of us have been. I don't think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It's just a Southern thing. It's transparent. It's just a heritage thing."

Longtime racing fan Faron Elam, meanwhile, wasn't thrilled by the fan restrictions and more minimal atmosphere.

"This ain't racing," said Elam, a 50-year-old from Cottondale, Alabama.

"This is nothing like it used to be. You used to come up here and have fun, go to all the souvenir trucks, everything.

"You've got two out front now. That's all you've got and if you don't like who's in it, then you don't get anything."