A noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 team Sunday, NASCAR announced in a late-night statement.
The news capped a day in which a Confederate flag flew over Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama and many others lined the streets leading into the track in defiance of NASCAR’s banning of the Confederate flag at all of its tracks and events.
According to a statement NASCAR released late Sunday night, league is launching an immediate investigation into who put the noose in Wallace’s stall. Wallace is the only black driver on NASCAR’s premier Cup Series and the leading voice behind the sport’s push for racial equality and the banning of the Confederate flag.
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. 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.”
Shortly after NASCAR made the announcement, Wallace responded.
“Today’s 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 how persistent we must be in the fight against racism. Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our spirt has made a commitment to driving real change 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. As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you.’ 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.”
Prior to Sunday’s scheduled GEICO 500, a small plane flew above the track with a banner of the Confederate flag and carrying a second banner that said “DEFUND NASCAR.”
There were vehicles outside the grounds displaying the Confederate flag. One social-media post displayed a video showing a stream of cars and trucks driving down Speedway Boulevard, with the flags waving.
People along the road were also waving the flag or cheering on the caravan. The race was later pushed back to Monday because of inclement weather.
NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell wasn’t impressed by the sight of a plane displaying the Confederate flag and showed a picture of black and white hands clasped together on his Twitter feed Sunday.
“You won’t see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here...but you will see this...Hope EVERYONE enjoys the race today.”
Also, the logos on Denny Hamlin’s car were changed to display the National Civil Rights Museum.
Sponsor FedEx donated $500,000 in support of the museum’s mission to chronicle the history of civil rights in the United States. The museum and FedEx headquarters are both located in Memphis, Tenn., and Hamlin visited the museum on Thursday.
The race is scheduled to be run today at 3 p.m. ET.