LINCOLN, Ala. — A huge show of solidarity among the NASCAR community took place at the Geico 500 at Talladega Super Speedway in Alabama Monday afternoon.
The race was delayed to Monday because of rain showers on Sunday. The delay left ample time for someone to sneak into the garage of Richard Petty Racing, who employs the NASCAR Cup Series’ only African-American driver in Darrell “Bubba” Wallace and hang a noose in the garage.
The act sent shockwaves through the NASCAR community and sent supporters and drivers alike to rally around Wallace before the start of the race. Drivers, pit crews, NASCAR race officials, and everyone in-between gathered around Wallace’s car, set to start 24th, and pushed it out of the grid, down pit road and to the front of the line with Wallace behind the wheel.
“It showed how much we support not only Darrell,” said race winner and long-time friend of Wallace, Ryan Blaney. “That was the main reason we were doing it, to support Darrell. But everybody that has been oppressed not only for the past two weeks but for a long time.”
“Yeah, it was cool to see everybody pushing Bubba’s car there down to the front,” said Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, who finished second. “I would say it was a Kevin (Harvick) and Jimmie (Johnson) idea that everybody jumped on board with. Then to see all the crew members follow suit was really cool.”
Wallace’s car owner Richard Petty was there at the race to stand with his driver. Petty, who is 82, had not been at a race for months as he has been keeping his distance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wallace would eventually return to his 24th starting spot and would go on to lead a few laps, but ultimately finished 14th as his team’s fuel strategy left him short at the end forcing him to give up a front spot to hit pit road for fuel.
Wallace is known for throwing a football with fans in the stands during long-rain delays. That’s normally with thousands in the stands, but with the coronavirus pandemic still in play, fans were limited to just 5,000 for Monday’s race.
After the race, Wallace walked out to the tri-oval turn of the race track, not with a football in his hands, but lots of emotions as he shook the hands and gave high-fives with fans and supporters through the catch fence.
“Man, I know I should’ve won that damn race,” Wallace said. “We ran out of gas, just the stars didn’t align completely for us. The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to witness in my life. It’s really incredible I’m proud to be a part of this sport.”
NASCAR is still investigating to figure out who is responsible for the noose being hung in Wallace’s garage. The FBI and the Department of Justice have also gotten involved as the act could be designated as a federal hate crime.