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NASCAR says noose was found in Black driver’s garage stall at Alabama race

Bubba Wallace stands for the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race in June in Florida. AP file photo
Bubba Wallace stands for the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race in June in Florida. AP file photo

A noose was found in the garage stall of Black driver Bubba Wallace at the NASCAR race in Alabama on Sunday, less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.

NASCAR announced the discovery late Sunday and said it had launched an immediate investigation. It said it will do everything possible to find who was responsible and “eliminate them from the sport.”

“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” the series said in a statement. "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.”

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On Twitter, Wallace said the “the 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 ow persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”

“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you,'” he wrote. " This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.’ ”

 

The noose was discovered on the same day NASCAR's fledgling flag ban faced its biggest challenge. The ban took effect before last week's race near Miami, but there were only about 1,000 military members admitted into that race. At Talladega, in the heart of the South, as many as 5,000 fans were allowed in, even though rain postponed the race until Monday.

There weren't any immediate reports of how many, if any, flags were confiscated or taken down at the track. There were informal protests Saturday and Sunday alike, with cars and pickup trucks driving along nearby roads flying the flag and parading past the entrance to the superspeedway. A small plane flew overhead pulling a banner with the flag and the words “Defund NASCAR.”

A truck flying Confederate flags passes by the Talladega Superspeedway prior to the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the in Talladega Ala., Sunday June 21, 2020 (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
A truck flying Confederate flags passes by the Talladega Superspeedway prior to the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the in Talladega Ala., Sunday June 21, 2020 (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

The race was pushed back to Monday afternoon because of heavy rain and lightning. But before the rain came, the scene was a dramatic departure from the Talladega norm.

“It’s weird. It’s eerie,” said David Radvansky, 32, from suburban Atlanta, who brought his wife and two young boys.

Radvansky, who started coming to Talladega in the 1990s when his father parked cars at races, applauded NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flags.

“I don’t think there’s a place for it in NASCAR, to be honest with you,” the 32-year-old said. “That doesn’t sit well with all the good ole boys but it is what it is.”

Fans had to go through screening and wear masks to get in for the race, though a few were walking around inside without theirs on. But lines seemed to flow quickly and the sun was shining until about an hour before the race, when rain and lightning started.

Bathrooms had arrows directing patrons which way to enter or exit, and attendants lined the way holding signs urging them to “please wear your masks.”

Directly across from the track, Ed Sugg’s merchandise tent flew Confederate flags prominently in a display alongside Trump for 2020 banners and an American flag.

“They’re doing very well,” said the Helena, Alabama resident, who has been selling an array of wares at NASCAR races for 21 years. “People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance. It’s been around for as long as all of us have been. I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It’s just a Southern thing. It’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”

Race fans fly Confederate battle flags and United States flags as they drive outside the entrance to Talladega Superspeedway prior to a NASCAR Cup Series auto race in Talladega Ala., Sunday, June 21, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Race fans fly Confederate battle flags and United States flags as they drive outside the entrance to Talladega Superspeedway prior to a NASCAR Cup Series auto race in Talladega Ala., Sunday, June 21, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Wallace, a 26-year-old Alabama native, had found support among fellow drivers for his stance on the flag and he noted that in his tweet late Sunday after the noose announcement.

“Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and tea members in the garage,” he said. “Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real chance 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.”