Authorities said on Monday that the FBI is investigating the discovery of a noose found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace and the governor of Alabama condemned the act against NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver. Wallace two weeks ago successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its venues, though the sanctioning body has not outlined plans on how it will enforce the restriction.
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team,” NASCAR said in a statement on Sunday. “We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act.”
On Twitter, Wallace said: “The 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.”
Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from all races as the sport moved to distance itself from a checkered past on race amid global protests against the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
The noose was discovered on the same day NASCAR’s fledgeling flag ban faced its biggest challenge. The ban took effect before last week’s race near Miami, but there were only about 1,000 military members admitted into that race.
At the Talladega, Alabama Superspeedway, in the heart of the South, as many as 5,000 fans were allowed in, even though rain postponed the race until Monday and visitors were barred from the infield.
No flags were spotted inside the race venue on Sunday, but cars and pick-up trucks driving along nearby roads were flying the flag and parading past the entrance to the superspeedway over the weekend.
A small plane flew over the track on Sunday pulling a banner with the flag and the words: “Defund NASCAR.”
Wallace’s 2013 victory in a Truck Series race was only the second in a NASCAR national series by a Black driver (the first being Wendell Scott in 1963) and helped push him into the Cup Series, where he drives the number 43 for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and is forced to scramble for sponsorship dollars.
Wallace, a 26-year-old Alabama native, said he has found support among fellow drivers for his stance on the flag. He noted that in his tweet after the noose announcement.
“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,” he said. “Together, our sport 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.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she was “shocked and appalled” by the “vile act” against Wallace, an Alabama native.