A long, emotional, and attention-filled week has Darrell Wallace Jr. worn out and frustrated, but he can see the light at the end of the tunnel with two NASCAR Cup Series races this weekend.
Last weekend, the NASCAR fraternity rallied around Wallace ahead of Monday’s rain-delayed Talladega race after a noose was discovered in his garage, triggering a barrage of media attention. An FBI investigation determined that there had not been a hate crime committed and that the noose had been in the garage for several months.
“You stay off social media as much as you can,” Wallace said Friday of how he’s been holding up. “Corey LaJoie texted me yesterday and asked if I was all good. I said, every time you stand behind the truth, you’re always good. I know people are going to try to knock me and bump me off the throne, the pedestal I’m on, the same pedestal that I’ve been on for 16 or 17 years now since I started, so I’m fine with it. It’s fine.
“I love to get out and compete and have really good runs. It’s just motivation to go out and to have really good races. We’ll never shut [racists] up. They’re afraid of themselves. They’re afraid of change. Sometimes those are the people that you can’t help throughout all the chaos in the world. Those are the ones who need the most help. But, you quickly realize they don’t give a damn about you, and I don’t give a damn about them.”
While NASCAR President Steve Phelps took full responsibility for the strength of the sport’s response to the perceived heinous act against Wallace, the driver said he felt everything was done the right way. He has also checked with his team several times to make sure it wasn’t simply a garage pull.
“You’ve seen the numbers and how many garage stalls they inspected,” said Wallace. “Eleven had knots, and only one had a noose.
“Whether it was tied sometime throughout 2019, the fall race there, someone did it with whatever intent they had. We weren’t in that garage stall at that time, so we can’t say it was directed toward me, which is good. It wasn’t directed toward me or my family. But somebody still knows how to tie a noose and whether they did it as a bad joke or not, who knows? But it was good for the public to see. It still won’t change some people’s mind of it being a hoax, but it is what it is.”
For those like Wallace ready to focus on racing, there will be plenty this weekend at Pocono Raceway. All three national series are in action, including the Cup Series running its first doubleheader. But even as Wallace contends for his eighth and ninth top-20 finish of the season, he will not stop being a proponent of change in the sport. Wallace is the only Black driver in the Cup Series and has been both visible and vocal over the last month about racial inequality, and ways the sport and his fellow drivers can use their voices and platforms for good.
“Let’s focus on how we can continue to push the message of compassion and understanding, and let’s help fight the good fight in what’s going on in the world today,” he said.
“And let’s get new fans out to the racetrack and encourage our fan base now to welcome them with open arms and show them a good time. I think that’s one important piece that we can focus on right now. Let’s get away from what happened at Talladega. Let’s move on from that and put it to bed.
“Let me go out and have some good races, have some bad races, and try to figure out what the hell we’re going to do to rebound from bad races and get back into race car life. As much as it’s tough for me to balance both the human being side and the racing side, it’s part of it, and I accepted that. We’ll just continue to move on and push the narrative on, let’s go back a couple of weeks ago, on how we can implement our ways to help bring new faces in and help bring more diversity inclusion and make everybody feel welcome.”