Before the start of Monday’s rescheduled Geico 500 at Talladega, NASCAR athletes and personnel gathered to push Bubba Wallace’s race car to the front of pit row. The gesture was a show of solidarity after yesterday’s hate crime.
Late last night, news broke of a noose hanging in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall. Wallace, the only black driver at the top level of NASCAR, released a statement on twitter condemning the vile act and proclaiming the incident “will not break me…nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
When Wallace reached the end of pit row he was greeted by legendary NASCAR driver and race team owner, Richard Petty. Talladega is the first race that Petty, 82, has attended since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the NASCAR season. He felt like he had to travel to support his driver and friend.
“The most impt thing for me right now is hugging my driver,” he told reporters.
After the national anthem, Wallace took a picture with the entire field and posted it to twitter with the caption, “together.”
“The news has really disturbed us all,” said driver Jimmie Johnson in a live, pre-race interview. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion said drivers wanted to participate in the demonstration because, “we want to stand with our friend.”
In the broadcast booth, Hall of Fame driver and FOX sports broadcaster, Jeff Gordan, spoke about the racist hate crime.
“I’m furious,” said Gordon, “I’m saddened by what Bubba has had to endure and the pain it has caused so many others.”
“The drivers feel very strongly that they want to show their support of Bubba,” said Steve Phelps, President of NASCAR. “He’s a member of the NASCAR community. He’s a member of the NASCAR family. The outpouring of support over the last couple weeks from our drivers, from the industry as a whole, from the fans, has been phenomenal.”
Since the murder of George Floyd, Wallace has been outspoken about racial issues in NASCAR and American life. He has shared his personal experiences with the police and racism on instagram, he has worn an “I can’t breathe’’ t-shirt before a race, he called for the ban of the confederate flags at NASCAR events and he has driven a Black Lives Matter car during a race.
With a clear threat to Wallace’s safety, NASCAR has provided additional security to the driver.
“We want to make sure that Bubba is safe,” said Phelps. “This is a family that needs to take care of one of its family members who has been attacked. We will firmly support as an industry, as a family and community, to make sure Bubba and everyone else in this sport is safe.”