Wallace is the only black driver in the sport’s top-flight Cup Series, and the discovery of a noose in his garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway prompted an investigation by NASCAR and the FBI.
Wallace, who was driving in his home state of Alabama, has been racing since he was 9 and, although there have been racist incidents, there had been nothing “of this magnitude,” his mother said. Wallace led the fight to get the sport to ban displays of the Confederate flag at its races, and NASCAR took that step after the killing of George Floyd by banning the display of the flag at all its events and properties, a decision that sparked anger and backlash from many in its traditional fan base.
“I teach my son: ‘You don’t throw back at them. You just get in that racecar and win. … That’s the way you fight back,‘ ” Desiree Wallace said.
Her son told her “it was someone inside the walls of NASCAR,” and she added that she is “just praying that it’s not one of his team members.”
Wallace drives for Richard Petty’s team, and his 82-year-old boss, a NASCAR legend, greeted him on the track before Monday’s race, which was delayed a day because of storms.
There has been no information yet about who might have left the noose in what is a highly restricted area even when there isn’t a pandemic. Desiree Wallace indicated that it won’t be easy to find the person responsible.
“There were video cameras, but there were not cameras where the noose was hung,” she said. “See, everybody thinks there are cameras around there, they know who’s done it. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.”
She learned of the incident Sunday when her son told her in a FaceTime conversation, “There’s been a hate crime against me.” She grew concerned because of what she said was a defeated look on his face.
“I said, ‘Look, that was an act of fear.’ I said, ‘They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.’ I said, ‘It was a cowardly act,’” she said. “I said, ‘And, at the end of the day, you don’t allow them to strip away your character or your integrity.’ I said: ‘You go out there tomorrow and you kick some butt. That’s what you do.’ ”
She worried that someone might have tinkered with his car. “The thing that concerns me at this point was: ‘Okay, if they were bold enough to do that, what about his car?’ So I told Bubba, I said, ‘You need to contact NASCAR and see if your car was sabotaged,’ because that’s my first thought.”
According to Desiree Wallace, her son’s crew was allowed to prepare his backup car for the race. “I told him: ‘At the end of the day, God has got you, God’s got you. They’ll do anything to try to stop you; this is just a telltale sign.’ Racism exists, people. Wake up!”
Wallace finished 14th in the race, and some of the small crowd allowed to watch from the stands greeted him at the finish line. Many were wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. “First time here? You from Atlanta?” Wallace asked them. “It’s so cool. The sport is changing.”
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