LINCOLN, Ala. (UPI) — NASCAR has launched an investigation after a noose was found in driver Bubba Wallace‘s garage at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Ala. Wallace is the only black driver in the Cup Series.
NASCAR said the flag was found in the garage stall Sunday afternoon before the Geico 500 was postponed due to a rain delay. The incident occurred two weeks after Wallace successfully pushed the sport to ban the Confederate flag from its track and facilities.
“[Sunday’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 Twitter.
“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.”
“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.
“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 banned the Confederate flag before the June 14 Dixie Vodka 400 in Homestead, Fla. No fans were allowed to attend that race due to coronavirus pandemic safety precautions, but 1,000 military members were in attendance. Up to 5,000 fans were allowed into Talladega Sunday before the race was pushed to Monday.
Only NASCAR crew members, NASCAR officials, safety workers, and essential personnel were permitted to have access to the garage areas.
A small protest took place outside of the entrance to the track, with vehicles flying the flag as they drove by the entrance. A plane flew over the track while it pulled a banner, which included a Confederate flag and the words “Defund NASCAR.”
NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell acknowledged the plane’s pilot on Twitter. He also posted a photo of black and white hands shaking.
“You won’t see a photo of a [expletive] flying a flag over the track here, but you will see this. Hope everyone enjoys the race.”
Wallace, 26, has been one of the most prominent voices in the sport in response to the death of George Floyd. He has also worn Black Lives Matter shirts and had a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his No. 43 Chevrolet.
Wallace told CNN on June 8 about his push for the sport to ban the Confederate flag. NASCAR banned the flag two days later.
The Geico 500 will start at 3 p.m. EDT Monday at Talladega.
Reporting by Alex Butler
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