By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is far from the biggest story.
NASCAR issued a disturbing statement Sunday night regarding what was found from Bubba Wallace’s garage stall:
“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.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps spoke with the media Monday and gave brief details of who found the noose and notified the Birmingham FBI office to start the investigation which is currently at its early stages.
“A crew member from the 43 team discovered a noose in the 43 garage stall. That crew member informed NASCAR. NASCAR security got involved. I got a small group of senior leaders in the sport at NASCAR together to try to determine what the next steps would be,” Phelps on the investigation.
“First thing was to launch an immediate investigation into this heinous act. As part of that, we this morning at 7:30 notified the Birmingham office of the FBI. They are currently on-site. They’ve started their investigation.
“We are, as I said, in the early stages of this. We will continue to keep the media informed as we learn more. Obviously this is a very, very serious act. We take it as such. We will do everything in our power to make sure that whoever has committed this act comes to justice and comes to light and we rid this type of behavior from our sport.”
Phelps has spoken with Wallace as he was the one who fully informed the incident.
“I’m the one that informed Bubba that this act had happened. It’s a difficult moment for Bubba. It’s a difficult moment for me,” said Phelps. “He’s handled it with the grace that he has handled everything that’s happened over the last few weeks.”
Minutes after NASCAR’s initial statement, Wallace tweeted his response regarding the disgraceful finding:
“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,” said Wallace.
“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 sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone,” Wallace added.
The series veteran wrapped up his statement by saying a heinous situation like Sunday won’t break him nor it’ll get in the way of what he stands for as a human being.
“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.”
The following morning, Richard Petty confirmed he’ll be at Talladega to support his driver and share a statement regarding racism, saying that the “sick person” should be banned from the sport for life.
“I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team. There is absolutely no place in our sport or our society for racism,” said Petty.
“This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change. The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed, and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR,” Petty added.
Petty concluded that he’ll stand with Wallace, much like everyone else in the sport who won’t tolerate racism.
“I believe in my heart this despicable act is not representative of the competitors I see each day in the NASCAR garage area,” said Petty. “I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba, yesterday, today, tomorrow and everyday forward.”
Phelps commented that there are questions that cannot be answered at this time, but rest assure whoever pulled the act will be banned from the sport. No matter the individual or group’s status.
“There is no room for this at all. We won’t tolerate it. They won’t be here. I don’t care who they are, they will not be here,” Phelps added.
“I had the opportunity to speak with the King this morning. He and I met in person. He is resolved, and his team, to figure out how we work together to get this solved and figure out the person who did this act.”
Regarding Wallace’s No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Phelps allowed the team to enter their garage stall and see if the car wasn’t tampered due to the vile act.
“That’s something that we did allow the team to look at, make sure the car is in good shape,” said Phelps. “Won’t get into any specifics about that, but yes, the team was allowed to do that.”
Going forward with Monday’s 188-lap race, Phelps ensured that with extra security and the FBI being aware of what happened will keep Wallace and his entire family safe.
“We want to make sure that Bubba is safe. We have stepped up security,” Phelps on the safety protocol. “Again, this is a family that needs to take care of one of its family members who has been attacked. We will firmly support as an industry, as a family and community, to make sure Bubba and everyone else in this sport is safe.”