After NASCAR revealed that a noose was found in Bubba Wallace's garage at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, the racing community has made it a point to rally around Wallace and show their support in wake of the incident. The response efforts began Monday at Talladega, where Wallace's peers -- including NASCAR drivers, pit crew members and others -- walked with Wallace's No. 43 car and escorted him to the front of the pack.
It was a moving showcase of solidarity, one that clearly made Wallace emotional. At the end of the procession, Wallace hugged a number of his supporters.
Wallace, who is NASCAR's lone Black driver competing at the top level, also took a selfie with the large group standing behind him, literally and metaphorically.
Among those supporting Wallace on Monday was 82-year-old NASCAR legend Richard Petty, who made the decision to attend his first race since the coronavirus shutdown in order to stand alongside his driver. Wallace drives the No. 43 car for Petty's racing team.
Wallace led for one lap in the Geico 500 with 27 laps to go and finished 14th, three-tenths of a second behind winner Ryan Blaney, who is one of Wallace's closest friends.
"He and I would be great friends even if we weren't racing together," Blaney said of Wallace. "I support him 100 percent. I'm always going to be behind him and if you run a foul to Bubba you run a foul to me."
"He and I would be great friends even if we weren't racing together."— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) June 23, 2020
Talladega winner Ryan Blaney explains how he became friends with Bubba Wallace and talks about their relationship.
*brief cameo from Brad Keselowski in this clip too*#NASCAR pic.twitter.com/cZxXO56j4e
This is Wallace's best finish at Talladega and despite not leaving victorious, he said he considered the day a win.
After the race, Wallace reflected on an emotional two days and talked about how moving it was to see his fellow drivers show such support.
"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 from crew members, from everybody here, the badass fan base, thank you guys for coming out here," he said. "This is truly incredible and I'm proud to be a part of this sport.
He also joked about the race saying, "Man, I know I should've won that damn race. We ran out of gas."
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson noted after the race that it was Kevin Harvick who came up with the idea to push the No. 43 down pit road. Johnson had recently organized a video among drivers condemning racism in the sport prior to the events at Talladega.
"Anger, pissed off, all of that. My blood was boiling," Johnson said about his feelings upon learning the news about the noose. "I could not believe that that had happened."
"My blood was boiling. I could not believe that had happened."— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) June 23, 2020
Jimmie Johnson shares how he felt when he found out a noose was left in Bubba Wallace's garage and details the shift in emotion once the #NASCAR community rallied together. pic.twitter.com/PVTyDyuBz4
"I just felt all these different emotions," said Blaney who was with Wallace on Sunday night. "Last night I was really angry. I couldn't fall asleep."
Blaney ended his post-race press conference with a powerful statement. "We showed that we're not going to take it anymore. I'm getting sick of this s**t. It's not something that (Wallace) should deal with."
NASCAR announced Sunday night that they have launched an investigation into identifying who left the noose in Wallace's garage. The U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Alabama, the FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are also reviewing the situation and determining whether there were violations of federal law with regards to a hate crime.
No fans were allowed in the infield at Talladega on Sunday, which suggests that whoever left the noose in Wallace's garage had credentials to be present in that area.
Over the past few months, Wallace has emerged as a vocal advocate for Black Lives Matter. He recently campaigned for NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from all events to promote a more welcoming and diverse environment, and NASCAR quickly decided to follow Wallace's advice.
"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," said Wallace in a statement on Sunday night. "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."