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NASCAR drivers stand with Bubba Wallace in pre-race demonstration

NASCAR drivers push the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, driven by Bubba Wallace, to the front of the grid as a sign of solidarity with the driver prior to the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR drivers took to pit road on Monday and pushed to the track the car of Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver.

It was a symbolic gesture of unity by Wallace’s fellow drivers after a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Speedway on Sunday. The words #IStandWithBubba were displayed on the grass adjacent to the track.

Richard Petty, seven-time NASCAR champion and owner of Wallace’s famed No. 43, was at Talladega to support his driver. Petty, who turns 83 next month, has not attended a race during the pandemic and said in a statement he was “enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the noose was found Sunday afternoon by a crew member he did not identify and security was notified. He said security had been stepped up and the FBI was “currently on site” at the track, just two hours before Monday’s postponed race.

The stock car series, founded in the South more than 70 years ago, has tried to distance itself from the Confederate flag for years at the risk of alienating a core group of its fan base. At Wallace’s urging, it went ahead with the ban as the nation grapples with social unrest largely tied to George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.