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UPDATE 6/23 6:05 pm ET: The noose found in the garage Bubba Wallace was assigned to had been there since 2019, federal authorities determined Tuesday.
Original story follows:
A noose was found hanging in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall on Sunday, just weeks after NASCAR’s only Black driver led a push to ban the Confederate flag from the sport.
The grim discovery was made at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, where a race was due to take place Sunday — though it was ultimately called off due to rain.
NASCAR has launched an investigation and promised to find those responsible and “eliminate them from the sport.”
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” the series said in a statement. “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, currently the NASCAR Cup Series’ only Black driver and one of most successful Black drivers in the history of the sport, said the “despicable act of racism and hatred leave 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 added: “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.”
Wallace was among those who spearheaded the effort to finally rid the sport of the Confederate battle flag two weeks ago. However, over the weekend, protesters drove past the raceway waving Confederate flags while a plane flew above the track carrying a banner saying “Defund NASCAR.”
NASCAR was moved to outlaw the flag in response to the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes while he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
Wallace was at the forefront of that effort. At one race he wore a black T-shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe,” and at another, he had a Black Lives Matter logo painted on his car.
NASCAR officials said earlier this month the flag would be banned from all future events, a move that prompted one driver to announce his retirement from the sport.
This week’s race in Talladega was the first major test of the new policy. Fans were allowed in to watch the races for the first time since the series was halted due to the coronavirus.
“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,” Wallace said.
“Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important, and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.”
Cover: Bubba Wallace waits for the start of a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, June 14, 2020, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)