Bubba Wallace: ‘All in all, we won today’

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - JUNE 22: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, and team owner, and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty stand for the national anthem prior to the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama. A noose was found in the garage stall of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway a week after the organization banned the Confederate flag at its facilities. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

He may not have won the race, but Bubba Wallace won the day.  Wallace learned late Sunday night hours after the Cup race was delayed due to weather, that a noose had been found in the No. 43 garage stall.  NASCAR launched an investigation calling in the FBI.

The incident comes less than two weeks after Wallace spoke out against racism and at a time when the subject of racism is at the forefront of America sparked by the killing of a Black man in Minnesota in late May.  Wallace asked for the sport to ban the confederate flag from its events, which it did.

If Wallace didn’t know the sport had his back, he found out Monday.

Prior to the start of Monday’s race, every driver in attendance along with Wallace’s boss Richard Petty who flew in Monday morning just to support his driver, pushed the No. 43 car to the front of pit road.  All gathered there during the invocation and the singing of the National Anthem.  The movement carried over from social media where the hashtag #IStandWithBubba began to trend.  The track painted the hashtag on the infield grass prior to the race. Drivers had been motivated to stand with Wallace thanks to Kevin Harvick who started a group text among the drivers.

Once the race started Wallace would run among the top five in the closing stages and even led a lap. But like many among the front runners in the closing laps, he ran short of fuel and had to pit, he finished 14th.

This was the second race where NASCAR allowed fans and after climbing from his car, Wallace walked across the track to several Black fans at the fence who shouted at him that they had come to watch him race from Atlanta. After some high fives Wallace, who was not wearing a mask, turned to talked to the camera.

“This is probably the most badass moment right here,” Wallace said. “It’s been tough. It’s been hell. Well, I wouldn’t say hell; it’s just been hectic you know, carrying this weight, this burden. I wouldn’t really say burden, either. I’m proud to stand where I’m at and carry a new face. Look at this (turns around to face crowd to ask) is this the first time you’re here? From Atlanta? (cheers from fans) That is so cool! The sport is changing.”

“The deal that happened yesterday,” he added. “Sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile and I’m going to keep on going.”

“I’ve been a part of this sport for a really long time. I’m still kind of a rookie. I’m starting to figure this stuff out. We had a good race going today in our Victory Junction Chevrolet. But man, I know I should have won that damn race. We ran out of gas. It’s just the stars didn’t align for us complete, but all in all, we won today. The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life. From all the supporters. From drivers and crew members. Everybody here. The badass fan base; thank you guys for coming out here.

“This is truly incredible and I’m proud to be a part of this sport. Like I said earlier, I’ve got a long way to go. And we’ll keep on trucking. Another top-15 for us. We’ll take it. And, we’ll just go on to Pocono, right? I’m still smiling. I’ve got a long week ahead of me; probably a couple of weeks. Probably a couple of months, but I’ll be ready for Pocono, though.”

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – JUNE 22: Fans cheer for Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, after the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)