Bubba Wallace

Driver Bubba Wallace takes a selfie with himself and other drivers that pushed his car to the front in the pits of the Talladega Superspeedway prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series race Monday at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega Ala. John Bazemore/Associated Pres

As heartwarming as the sight of NASCAR drivers and crews pushing Bubba Wallace onto the track after a noose was found in his stall was, his mother says that auto racing wasn’t always so welcoming.

“This is not his first incident,” Desiree Wallace said Monday on Sirius XM’s “Joe Madison Show.” “If he gets into an incident with another driver, they’re quick to throw out the n-word. He’s been told he doesn’t belong. We’ve been through all of that.”

Wallace is the only Black competitor in the sport’s top-flight Cup Series and the discovery of a noose in his garage before Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway prompted an investigation by NASCAR and by the FBI.

Wallace, who was driving in his home state of Alabama, has been racing since he was 9 and, although there have been racist incidents, there had been nothing “of this magnitude,” according to his mother. Wallace led the fight to get the sport to ban Confederate flags, a frequent sight among fans, at its races and NASCAR quickly took that step after the killing of George Floyd.

“I teach my son, ‘You don’t throw back at them. You just get in that race car and win. . . . That’s the way you fight back,'” Desiree Wallace said.

Her son told her “it was someone inside the walls of NASCAR” and added that she is “just praying that it’s not one of his team members.”
Wallace drives for Richard Petty’s team and his 82-year-old boss, a NASCAR legend, greeted him on the track before Monday’s completion of the race, which was delayed a day because of storms.

There has been no clue yet about who might have left the noose in what is a highly restricted area even when there isn’t a pandemic. Desiree Wallace indicated that it won’t be easy to find the person responsible.

“There were video cameras, but there were not cameras where the noose was hung,” she said. “See, everybody thinks there are cameras around there, they know who’s done it. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.”

She learned of the incident Sunday when her son told her in a FaceTime conversation, “there’s been a hate crime against me.” She grew concerned because of what she said was a defeated look on his face.

“I said look, that was an act of fear. I said they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. I said it was a cowardly act,” she said. “I said and, at the end of the day, you don’t allow them to strip away your character or your integrity. I said you go out there tomorrow and you kick some butt. That’s what you do.”

She worried that someone might have tinkered with his car. “The thing that concerns me at this point was OK, if they were bold enough to do that, what about his car? So I told Bubba, I said you need to contact NASCAR and see if your car was sabotaged, because that’s my first thought.”

According to Desiree Wallace, his crew was allowed to prepare his backup car for the race. “I told him at the end of the day, God has got you, God’s got you. They’ll do anything to try to stop you, this is just a telltale sign. Racism exists people, wake up!”

Wallace finished 14th in the race and some of the small crowd allowed to watch the race in the stands greeted him at the finish line. Many were wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. “You from Atlanta?” Wallace asked them. “The sport is changing.”

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