Rousing show of support for Bubba Wallace dampened by separate noose incident

Drivers and crews push Bubba Wallace’s car to the front of the field before Monday’s race
Drivers and crews push Bubba Wallace’s car to the front of the field before Monday’s race. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

Nascar drivers put on a rousing show of support for Bubba Wallace at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway on Monday but the scenes were overshadowed by news that a noose had been found at the Sonoma Raceway in California.

All 39 other drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the field before Monday’s race at Talladega as FBI agents tried to find out who left a noose in his garage stall over the weekend. Wallace climbed out of his car and wept after the show of support.

Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols)

NASCAR drivers & crews join to push @BubbaWallace's
car to the front of the grid at Talladega. Richard Petty, age 82, is at the track for the first time since the COVID outbreak, to support Wallace. This sport is making it clear who it stands with, and who it does not. pic.twitter.com/CFemNWND02

June 22, 2020

Wallace, Nascar’s only black full-time driver, was emotional after spending time in the top five before running short on fuel and finishing 14th on Monday, slapping hands with a group of mostly African American fans.

“I’m proud to stand where I’m at ... This sport is changing,” Wallace said. “The deal that happened [on Saturday] I wanted to show whoever it was, you are not going to take away my smile. I am going to keep on going.”

The race was won by Wallace’s close friend, Ryan Blaney.

“I think it’s great that everybody really came together,” Blaney said. “I don’t want it to be remembered as a terrible day or a bad day in Nascar. I want it to be remembered as there was an incident and we all overcame it together and showed that we’re not going to take it any more.”

The stock car series was left reeling and angered by the racist act that came less than two weeks after it banned the Confederate flag on its properties at Wallace’s urging. It has vowed to permanently bar the person responsible, but the investigation was in its early stages.

The size of the task was made clear after news emerged that a makeshift noose was found hanging from a tree at another Nascar venue, the Sonoma Raceway in California. Officials said they are investigating the incident.

The raceway’s president, Steve Page, said a “piece of twine tied in what appeared to be a noose” was found hanging from a tree on Saturday behind a former administrative office.

Page said the incident was under investigation by the Sonoma county sheriff’s department. He also said he has asked staff and on-site business tenants to share any information or “any possible alternative explanation”. Sonoma was closed over the weekend due the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, disgruntled fans with Confederate flags drove past the main entrance to Talladega Superspeedway at the weekend, while a plane flew above the track pulling a banner of the flag that read “Defund Nascar” One fan in the stands on Monday said of the noose incident: “I thought it was funny myself.”