The Nascar paddock united to show their support for black driver Bubba Wallace as hundreds of team personnel and officials walked alongside his car through the pits just a day after a noose was found in his pit stall, but the powerful message was overshadowed by a second similar incident at another US track.
A makeshift noose was found hanging from a tree at the Sonoma Raceway in California, another circuit used on the Nascar calendar, which has significantly offensive connotations to the black community as a symbol of oppression,slavery and death.
Wallace was targeted on Sunday with a similar stunt, with a noose found in the stall of his garage before Sunday’s postponed race at Talladega Superspeedway, which he labelled a “despicable act of racism” and vowed to keep fighting against in the battle for racial equality. The stunt was in response to Wallace’s successful campaign to have the Confederate flag banned from the sport, given what it represents to African-Americans.
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The FBI has now launched an investigation into who left the noose in Wallace’s team garage on Sunday, given that there are strict security measures over who can enter the pit area.
However, while Nascar was showing its support for Wallace at Monday’s rescheduled race in Alabama, a second noose was found at Sonoma.
Raceway president Steve Page said a “piece of twine tied in what appeared to be a noose” was found hanging from a tree Saturday behind a former administrative office.
Page said the incident was under investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. He also said he has asked staff and on-site business tenants to share any information or “any possible alternative explanation.”
The track was closed over the weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is the biggest race circuit in the Bay Area.
Wallace later issued a statement of his own on social media, saying he was left “incredibly saddened” by the incident.
“(It) 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,” he said.
A host of other drivers also took to social media to express their support for the 26-year-old.
Ryan Blaney, who went on to win Monday’s race, called Watson his “brother”.
“You’re my brother and always will be,” he tweeted. “Don’t let the people who are lower than life to try and bring you down. They won’t scare you because you’re strong. I stand with you pal. Forever.”
Alex Bowman also expressed his appreciation for Watson’s efforts in fighting for what he believed in.
He said on Twitter: “We may not always get along the greatest, but I have a ton of appreciation for the person BubbaWallace is and everything he’s doing to push us all to be better.”
Watson went on to finish Monday’s race in 14th place.
Additional reporting by PA
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