“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.”
On Twitter, Wallace said “the despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and ow persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”
“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you,”‘ he wrote. “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, a 26-year-old Alabama native, had found support among fellow drivers for his stance on the flag and he noted that in his tweet after the noose announcement.
“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,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a plane flew over the track pulling a Confederate flag with the words “Defund NASCAR”.
The Confederate flags that once flew openly around the infield and stands are still for sale across the street. NASCAR hasn’t disclosed how it will handle fans flying flags.
With the most fans allowed into a race during the coronavirus pandemic it put the spotlight on the Confederate flag ban. There weren’t any immediate reports of how many, if any, flags were confiscated or taken down at the venue.
The noose was discovered on the same day NASCAR’s fledgling flag ban faced its biggest challenge. The ban took effect before last week’s race near Miami, but there were only about 1000 military members admitted into that race. At Talladega, in the heart of the South, as many as 5000 fans were allowed in, even though rain postponed the race until Monday afternoon, US time.
The ban drew informal protests Saturday and Sunday alike, with cars and utes trucks driving along nearby roads flying the flag and parading past the entrance to the superspeedway, along with the plane.
NASCAR did not acknowledge the plane or its banner, though executive Steve O’Donnell Tweeted a picture of black and white hands shaking: “You won’t see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here… but you will see this… Hope EVERYONE enjoys the race today.”
Rapper Ice Cube even tweeted about the plane saying, “[Expletive] him NASCAR, you got new fans in this household.”
The race has pushed back because of heavy rain and lightning. But before the rain came, the scene was a dramatic departure from the Talladega norm.
“It’s weird. It’s eerie,” said David Radvansky, 32, from suburban Atlanta, who brought his wife and boys, 3 and 6.
Radvansky, who started coming to Talladega in the 1990s when his father parked cars at races, applauded NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flags.
“I don’t think there’s a place for it in NASCAR, to be honest with you,” the 32-year-old said. “That doesn’t sit well with all the good ole boys but it is what it is.”
Fans had to go through screening and wear masks to get in for the race, though a few were walking around inside without theirs on. But lines seemed to flow quickly and the sun was shining until about an hour before the race, when rain and lightning started.
Bathrooms had arrows directing patrons which way to enter or exit, and attendants lined the way holding signs urging them to “please wear your masks.”
Directly across from the track, Ed Sugg’s merchandise tent flew Confederate flags prominently in a display alongside Trump for 2020 banners and an American flag.
“They’re doing very well,” said the Helena, Alabama resident, who has been selling an array of wares at NASCAR races for 21 years. “People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance. It’s been around for as long as all of us have been. I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It’s just a Southern thing. It’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”
Long-time racing fan Faron Elam, meanwhile, wasn’t thrilled by the fan restrictions and more minimal atmosphere.
“This ain’t racing,” said Elam, a 50-year-old from Cottondale, Alabama. “This is nothing like it used to be. You used to come up here and have fun, go to all the souvenir trucks, everything.
“You’ve got two out front now. That’s all you’ve got and if you don’t like who’s in it, then you don’t get anything.”
Then again, it was to provide the key element for the fan of everything from dirt track to drag racing.
“Just anything with speed,” Elam said.