Banning the Confederate flag was a crucial first step for NASCAR as it confronts the racism within its fanbase. Racism which recently reared its head once more. As of this writing, there’s only one black NASCAR driver, Bubba Wallace. And on Sunday, June 21, 2020, someone put a noose in his garage stall.
The noose in NASCAR’s only Black driver’s garage stall
This atrocity comes after Bubba Wallace not only motivated NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag, Road & Track reports, but also proudly raced in #BlackLivesMatter livery. Tonight, Monday, June 22, 2020, he and his fellow drivers race in Lincoln, Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway for the first time in front of fans since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
According to ESPN, Sunday night, a noose was found in the garage stall of Richard Petty Motorsports, the team Wallace races for. Wallace himself did not see the noose; rather, one of his teammates did. Said teammate, who has not been named, immediately reported it to NASCAR authorities. NASCAR President Steve Phelps then personally informed Wallace about what happened, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Since then, the FBI and Department of Justice have opened an official investigation into potential culprits, the WSJ reports. At the time of the incident, Autoweek reports, access to the stalls was limited to NASCAR employees, crew members, and “select track workers.”
EDIT (6/23/2020): A Facebook post made by user Chris McDonald claimed that the noose found was a serpentine belt, The Drive reports. This is demonstrably false. The post itself, which has since been deleted, referenced a news article which does not exist.
In addition, NASCAR content manager Zack Albert reported in a tweet that Phelps, commenting on a claim that the incident was staged, said that such a claim “personally offends me.”
NASCAR and the racers responded
Leaving a noose in the garage stall of a Black racer is an unquestionably racist and despicable act. And NASCAR was swift to respond and condemn it.
In addition, Autoweek reports that Phelps will ban the person, or persons, responsible for this from NASCAR for life.
Bubba Wallace’s fellow racers have also shown their support. Earlier today, every racer and crew member helped push Wallace’s No. 43 car to the front of the grid. “#ISTANDWITHBUBBA” has also been painted on the infield grass, Autoweek reports. And each driver hugged Wallace before the start of the race, Jalopnik reports.
In addition, team owner and famed NASCAR racer Richard Petty is attending for the first time since the pandemic, Car and Driver reports.
“I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team. There is absolutely no place in our sport or our society for racism. This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change.
“The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed, and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR. I believe in my heart this despicable act is not representative of the competitors I see each day in the NASCAR garage area. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba, yesterday, today, tomorrow [sic] and every day forward.”Richard Petty, Car and Driver
Combating motorsport racism
It should go without saying that such acts have no place in society, least of all in motorsports. Unfortunately, there are some who continue to perpetuate them.
NASCAR’s Confederate flag ban has, to put it mildly, not gone smoothly. After the ban was announced, vehicles lined the boulevard surrounding the track with the flag displayed. There was even a plane towing the flag, along with a ‘Defund NASCAR’ sign, The Root reports.
All this points to deep-seated racism within the fanbase. Something that Kyle Larson demonstrated quite well with his uttered racist slur. Even if the active voices are in the minority, their voices are still carrying. That is something which must change, and soon.
As Automobile muses, there is a fundamental lack of representation in many automotive and motorsports fields. 80% of African-Americans own cars, The Drive reports. Yet of the roughly 16,700 car dealerships in the US, only 60 are Black-owned. And incidents like these show that there are some who seemingly want to keep Black car fans away.
Here at MotorBiscuit, we stand behind Bubba Wallace and the fight for racial equality 100%. So, if you disagree, if you continue to fly that flag, if you support, publicly or privately, what happened this weekend, then this probably isn’t the place for you to get car news.
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