NASCAR is conducting an investigation after a noose was discovered in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Darrell Wallace Jr.
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team,” read a statement from the series. “We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can do 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.”
The NASCAR Cup Series was to race at Talladega on Sunday, but severe weather forced the GEICO 500 to Monday afternoon. Wallace, who drives for Richard Petty Motorsports, is the only Black driver in the Cup Series.
“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,” said Wallace.
“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 more will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
Wallace has rising to mainstream prominence in resent weeks after urging those within the industry to use their platforms and voices to speak out on racial inequality after George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, was killed in police custody last month. He also appeared on many television programs and interviews, sharing his own experiences.
Before the Atlanta race, NASCAR released a video with many of its drivers expressing a commitment to listen and learn, and be a part of change. At the time, NASCAR President Steve Phelps also addressed both the drivers and fan base about the sport and country needing to do better in addressing racial inequality. A few days later, NASCAR took another step in officially banning the Confederate flag from its races.
Wallace acknowledged in a recent interview that he expects to need to take additional precautions in public after having spoken out.
“My past experiences, I like to go out and sometimes spend time in the infield with the fans and have a good time, and I haven’t been ridiculed against,” said Wallace on June 12. “I know that’s going to change now. I’ve got to be careful about what I do. That’s kind of where we live in. My dad has texted me, he was proud of what I was doing on and off the racetrack, but he was worried about my safety, going out in public and whatnot. So, it’s just crazy you have to think about that side of things. You’ve definitely got to watch your back now, and can’t be like that outspoken guy, just happy-go-lucky guy that would go take a trip on the golf cart or my longboard down into the infield, or whatever, and have a good time.
“It’s definitely different. But, my past experience (at the track) wasn’t anything that was blown out of proportion or something that bothered me. We always had a good time at the race track.”