TALLADEGA, Ala. — Thunderstorms washed out the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, an event further dampened that night when news broke that a noose was found in black driver Bubba Wallace’s garage stall less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.
Hours after Confederate flags were displayed outside the track — some flying from pickup trucks — in protest of NASCAR’s ban, the sanctioning body said it was made aware of the noose late in the afternoon.
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” NASCAR said. “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.”
Wallace, the lone black driver in the elite Cup Series, drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for racing icon Richard Petty. “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,” Wallace said on Twitter. “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 race was pushed back to Monday afternoon because of heavy rain and lightning.
Earlier Sunday, as fans arrived at the track, dozens proudly displayed the Confederate flag, some from pickup trucks and at least one from an airplane, which also offered the message “Defund NASCAR.”
NASCAR did not acknowledge the plane or its banner, though executive Steve O’Donnell tweeted a picture of black and white hands shaking: “You won’t see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here . . . but you will see this . . . ”
The Confederate flags that once flew openly around the infield and stands still are for sale across the street. NASCAR hasn’t disclosed how it will handle fans flying flags. There weren’t any immediate reports of how many, if any, flags were confiscated or taken down at the venue.
David Radvansky, 32, from suburban Atlanta, applauded NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flags. “I don’t think there’s a place for it in NASCAR, to be honest with you,” he said. “That doesn’t sit well with all the good ol’ boys, but it is what it is.”
Directly across from the track, Ed Sugg’s merchandise tent flew Confederate flags prominently in a display alongside ‘”Trump for 2020’’ banners and an American flag. “They’re doing very well,” he said. “People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance. It’s been around for as long as all of us have been. I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It’s just a Southern thing. It’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”