By Dorothy J. Gentry
Bubba Wallace is tired—specifically “wore the hell out”—he said during an online Zoom call with the media on June 26.
The only full-time Black driver in NASCAR has been thrust into the spotlight over the past week after NASCAR and the FBI investigated the discovery of a noose in his team’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway on June 21.
On June 23, the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama said that no hate crime charges would be filed because the rope had been tied that way—clearly in the shape of a noose—and in Wallace’s garage stall since October.
NASCAR completed its own investigation two days later and released a photo of the noose amid unfounded speculation the whole situation could have been a hoax.
“Given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “Upon learning of seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. We’re living in a highly charged and emotional time. What we saw was a symbol of hate and was only present in one area of the garage—that of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace.”
NASCAR released an image of the garage pull rope tied into a noose that was found in the garage. Wallace said he’s glad it was released but knows it won’t change everyone’s opinion of the incident that came on the heels of continued racial unrest in this country following the murder of several Black citizens by police including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“It wasn’t directed towards me or my family, but somebody still knows how to tie a noose,” he said. “And whether they did it as a bad joke or not, who knows? But it was good for the public to see.
“It still won’t change most, or some people’s mind of me being a hoax, but it is what it is.”
He’s ready to move the conversation forward after an intense couple of weeks. “Part of my emotion today is one, being wore the hell out; two, is being a little frustrated; and three, is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He said everyone needs to “get away from what happened at Talladega. Let’s move on from that, put it to bed. As much as it’s tough for me balancing the human being side and racing side, it’s part of it. I accepted that. But we’ll just continue to move on.”
The 26-year-old Wallace—the son of a Black mother and White father—competes full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Wallace, who helped lead NASCAR’s response during the racial and social unrest and protests following Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer, also called for the sport to ban the controversial Confederate flag from all of its events.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. It starts with Confederate flags,” Wallace told CNN’s Don Lemon. “Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
Two days later, on June 10th, NASCAR’s governing body banned the flag, causing an uproar among long-time race fans. “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement on its website. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
Wallace said that despite the ban, people who want to fly it outside the tracks, as several did at Talladega, can do what they want.
“It’s the right for peaceful protests. It’s part of it. But you won’t see them inside of the racetracks where we’re having a good time with the new fans that have purchased their tickets and purchased their favorite driver’s apparel,” he said.
“You won’t see it flying in there. Outside, they’re just going to be making a lot of noise. It’s part of it. It’s exactly what you see on the flip side of everything going on in cities as they peacefully protest.
“But we won’t see cops pepper-spraying them and shooting them with rubber bullets, will you?” he said in reference to police across the country and tactics used to disperse many of the peaceful protests that are occurring.
NASCAR was formed in 1948 and runs three national series—Cup, Xfinity and trucks. The Texas 500 NASCAR Cup Series Race is scheduled to run at Texas Motor Speedway on October 25th.