NASCAR drivers and crew members sent a powerful message to the world on Monday: “We stand with Bubba Wallace.” The show of solidarity came a day after NASCAR announced that a noose was discovered inside Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway.
A massive crowd pushed and followed Wallace’s No. 43 car as he sat in the driver’s seat during pre-race activities.
Wallace, NASCAR’s only full-time black driver, then exited the car and embraced Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty, who owns the team Wallace races for and had not attended a race during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The drivers feel very strongly that they want to show their support of Bubba,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps told reporters. “He’s a member of the NASCAR community. He’s a member of the NASCAR family.”
The crowd stood beside Wallace during the national anthem. Wallace tweeted a selfie he took on the track of the moment, writing, “Together.”
Jimmie Johnson, in an interview on Fox before to the race, explained why the other drivers made the show of support. “As everybody knows, this is such a big family in the garage area, and the news really has disturbed us all. We want justice, in a sense, and we want to know who and why. Until all those [questions] are answered, we want to stand with our friend. We want to stand with Bubba.”
“As this idea came together today, it started within the drivers, and then as the crew members caught wind that we wanted to push Bubba’s car down and stand with him during the national anthem, the teams wanted to get involved as well, and you saw the support, it was pretty amazing.”
The FBI announced Monday that it would investigate the incident. “Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society,” U.S. Attorney Jay Town of the Northern District of Alabama said in a statement.
Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the display of Confederate flags at their events. Wallace had called for the flag to be banned as protests against police brutality and racism took place throughout the U.S.
“There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying,” Wallace told CNN at the time. “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
The race was won — barely — by Ryan Blaney, a close friend of Wallace’s. Blaney nipped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by .007 seconds. Wallace finished 14th.
Jordan Freiman contributed to this report.