NASCAR continues to drive change

Sports

Bubba Wallace stands for the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, June 14, 2020, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The FBI investigation into the noose that appeared to be hanging from Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s garage has ended concludes that Bubba was not a target of a hate crime.

“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime. The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment. We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”  

Statement from NASCAR

However, NASCAR continues to drive change within the sport.

Drivers and pit crew members united as one, escorting the No. 43 car with an emotional Wallace in it ahead of the Geico 500 Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway Monday, creating a powerful image of unity.

This is just one of the many ways NASCAR has continued to promote change and inclusion within the sport.

On June 7, NASCAR held a moment of silence for George Floyd during the pre-race ceremony at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

On June 10, NASCAR made the decision to ban confederate flags from its events following Wallace’s, NASCAR’S only Black driver in the Cup Series, call to action.

Despite the investigation’s conclusions drivers and NASCAR continue to support Wallace and remain full speed ahead in inspiring positive change.

Dr. Jerry Punch who has covered auto racing, among other sports, for over 30 years for ESPN and ABC says he is very proud of how NASCAR has responded to events surrounding the support and within our country.

“I’m very proud of what NASCAR, how NASCAR has responded as a sport as a whole, from their leadership to the drivers, the legends that are in the sport, with regard to what what is going on in our country with social injustice.”

While Ryan Blaney, Wallace’s good friend and fellow NASCAR Cup Series driver, may have won the race, Wallace walked away victorious in the eyes of the nation. After the race, Blaney reflected on how special of a moment it was for drivers and the pit crew to come together as one on the pit road before the race.

 “It showed how much we support not only Darrell.  That was the main reason we were doing it, to support Darrell,” says Blaney, “But everybody that has been oppressed not only for the past two weeks but for a long time.”

As Wallace continues to speak out against racial injustice Blaney continues to support his close friend as he is “behind him 100%.”

The changes that are coming to NASCAR to promote inclusion have been a long time coming. Dr. Punch reflects on when Wendell Scott’s, the first full-time Black driver in NASCAR, fellow race car drivers, like Junior Johnson and Ned Jarret, would stick up for Scott when promoter’s at the track would try to prohibit Wendell from racing there. The other drivers would show their support and band together saying, “if he doesn’t race, we don’t race.”

Dr. Punch noting drivers today reflecting those from the 60s.

“Those were drivers back then who stood up for one of their own. Just like the drivers this past weekend now are standing up for Bubba Wallace.”

Though it has taken years for NASCAR to be more inclusive and host a culture in the sport that Dr. Punch says can promote “love and inclusion and that everyone is welcome,” NASCAR continues to the necessary steps to promote significant change.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in a teleconference this afternoon that NASCAR is still investigating the incident at Wallace’s garage and that if given the evidence again, NASCAR would have done the same thing.

Phelps reiterates,  “There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It‘s not a part of who we are as a sport.”

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