By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace said he is “absolutely” reinvigorated to help advocate for social change and educate others after a noose was found in his team’s garage over the weekend.
Wallace joined The View Tuesday and explained his current perspective about what comes next after NASCAR’s massive show of support at Monday’s race as the FBI joined the investigation into Sunday’s incident at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama.
“Systemic racism is a problem from every aspect of life. We have to work so hard to get that to change and we know it’s not going to change overnight,” he said. “This isn’t going to stop me from changing. This isn’t going to be something that just boils over, blows over and just sweep it under the rug and forget about. It’s a part of me.”
Wallace, who is NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver, has been a leading voice in the sport amid calls for justice following the death of George Floyd and ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his own #43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports at the Martinsville race two weeks ago.
“I said a couple weeks ago, that something changed inside me to be an activist. My mother said, ‘Did you ever believe you would be an activist?’ I said ‘No, not really.’ But I just felt in my heart that I needed to step up and be a leader in the forefront,” Wallace explained.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 22, 2020
He continued, “I’m the only Black driver in NASCAR, it’s easier for me to talk about these matters because I go through some racism throughout my life. I don’t have it as hard as other people, but I still go through it so I can be a witness and be a part of it and speak on the matters and educate others.”
“That’s the biggest thing is that we as a sport put our messaging out there is educating people, listening and learning, helping people understand what other people are going through. We are very often too quick to listen and don’t give enough time to hear each other out,” Wallace explained. “Throughout all of this it will solidify where I stand and stand proud.”
Just over two weeks before this incident Wallace helped push NASCAR to officially ban the Confederate flag at all of its events, tracks and facilities.
“My dad had told me — after the Confederate flag deal — he said, ‘I’m proud of you, but I’m worried about your safety so you have to be careful.’ So this just shows how much I have to watch my back.
On Sunday after he called both of his parents, Wallace said his father reiterated his earlier point to “keep your head on a swivel.”
“Obviously I was hurt, I was sad that people would go to those measures. I wouldn’t say I’m shocked because we see the stuff that goes on in the world. But it’s just unfortunate that it happened to me and my crew was able to see it and witness that and it kind of took our mind off racing for a little bit. I guess it was kind of OK that we were put on a rain delay to go on and let us refocus for Monday.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 23, 2020
When the race resumed Monday, Wallace was met with a huge show of support from all 39 other drivers and their crews in a march down pit road to push his car to the front of the field on track at Talladega.
“Every time I watch that video I get you know emotional and get chills just to see love, compassion and understanding, those were the three words that were written on my Black Lives Matter car — and to see everybody come together and show their support you know we are all competitors and we all basically don’t like each other when the race starts we just want to go out and beat each other. That’s just what competitors do. But we always show the utmost respect off the racetrack — and I’m proud to be a part of the NASCAR family.”
“These times kind of bring back that positive light of love and passion and solidarity and unity to unite together and show that love is way stronger than hate,” he added.
As NASCAR president Steve Phelps and federal authorities investigate the discovery by Wallace’s race team, Wallace responded to the notion that some people have doubted the validity of the incident.
“It offends me that people would go to those measures, but again I’m not shocked. People are entitled to their own opinion to make them feel good, whatever helps them sleep at night, but it is still an ongoing investigation with the FBI,” he said.
“But it’s simple-minded people like that, the ones afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand up for instead of trying to listen and understand what’s going on,” Wallace said. “We’re still trying to figure out whoever did this crazy act, trying to pinpoint it on somebody and just go through it all. I think it was better for me not to see it directly. I don’t know how I would have reacted. It’s in the FBI’s hands to go through everything and try and figure it out.”
Wallace confirmed he has “talked to the FBI” something he said he “never thought would happen.”
— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) June 23, 2020
Although Wallace did not win Monday’s race due to a late stop for fuel, he finished14th and ended the day with fans, teammates and opponents celebrating him.
He apologized for not wearing a mandatory face mask but told reporters in a post-race interview that he didn’t wear it because “I wanted to show whoever it was: You are not going to take away my smile.”
“This sport is changing,” he said. “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 to crew members, everybody here, the badass fan base, thank you guys for coming out. This is truly incredible, and I’m glad to be a part of this sport.”
Other drivers have continued to show their support for Wallace both on and off the track.
Ryan Blaney, who found his way to victory lane after a photo finish with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said that Wallace has been one of his best friends for 15 years, and hailed the special moment before the race.
“It showed how you’re not gonna scare [Wallace]. You’re not gonna scare him,” Blaney told Scott Van Pelt in an interview on ESPN. “He’s really strong. He’s gonna rise above it and fight this.
“So we just wanted to show our support. I wanted to show my support for my best friend. He’s just been someone I’ve really, really loved for a long time, and I’m gonna support him 100 percent along the way for many years to come. I hope a lot of people will look at that and learn from everyone coming together and supporting each other. That’s what it’s gonna take to make things better.”
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