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Federal authorities reviewing noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall

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Jay. E. Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama said Monday that his office, the FBI and Department of Justice are reviewing the discovery of a noose found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace’s team at Talladega Superspeedway to determine if there are violations of federal law.

“Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought,” Town stated, “this type of action has no place in our society.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps confirmed in a Monday afternoon teleconference that the FBI was at the track investigating.

Wallace, the only Black driver competing full-time in NASCAR’s top series, stated on social media late Sunday that “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.”

His competitors voiced their support on social media and were joined by athletes from other sports, including LeBron James.

Corey LaJoie stated on social media, in response to a tweet that drivers were organizing a show of support for Wallace, that “pretty much the entire garage” would do so before Monday’s rain-delayed race at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

Car owner Richard Petty stated Monday that he was “enraged” someone would place a noose in the garage stall and that “this filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice. … The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed, and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR.”

 

 

 

Athletes from various sports show support for Bubba Wallace

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LeBron James, Tyrann Mathieu of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and PGA golfer Max Homa were among the athletes who showed support for Bubba Wallace on social media after news that a noose had been found Sunday in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR stated it has launched an investigation and that “we are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. … 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 welcome to all.”

Wallace, the only Black driver competing full-time in NASCAR’s top series, stated on social media late Sunday that “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.”

James tweeted his support for Wallace, saying: “I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete.”

Mathieu tweeted to Wallace: “I stand with you champ.”

Homa, who completed play in Sunday’s PGA event, said on Twitter: “I’ve never been much into NASCAR but I am damn sure rooting for Bubba Wallace to ball out in spite of all this BS he has to deal with.”

WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil tweeted: “I STAND WITH Bubba Wallace.”

NASCAR Cup drivers Michael McDowell, Tyler Reddick and Garrett Smithley were among drivers tweeting their support of Wallace shortly after the news broke. Early Monday morning, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski both expressed their outrage and what was done at the track. They were joined by many other drivers voicing their support for Wallace.

Bubba Wallace: ‘People are wanting to stand up for what’s right in this world’

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Bubba Wallace knew when he spoke about Black Lives Matter that he would face responses that “all lives matter.”

Wallace, whose car Wednesday night at Martinsville Speedway had #BlackLivesMatter on it, explained in a media session Friday about the importance of Black Lives Matter, his form of protest, what’s next and more.

“There is a poster of a little girl that says, yes we said Black Lives Matter, no we did not say only Black Lives Matter,” Wallace said. “We know that all lives matter, but we are trying to make you all understand that Black Lives Matter, too. Too. T-o-o. It’s three letters that is left off that people don’t understand. Black Lives Matter, too.

“Families are worried about their kids going out and driving for the first time and getting pulled over and being killed. The African American community is so worried about that right now. We shouldn’t live like that. The African American community should not live like that. We’re trying to get other people to understand just how tough it is to live in this world right now.”

Bubba Wallace during the national anthem last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wallace also has spread his message by wearing an American Flag face covering and a T-shirt that states “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” during pre-race ceremonies the past two races. “I can’t breathe” is what George Floyd said before he died May 25 after a since-fired Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. 

While other athletes have kneeled during the national anthem to protest social injustice perviously — NASCAR official Kirk Price, who served in the U.S. Army, kneeled while saluting the flag last weekend at Atlanta — Wallace has remained standing during the anthem the last two races.

Asked if he will kneel during the anthem, Wallace said he is studying the matter. NASCAR recently removed requirements on what team members must do during the national anthem, allowing for peaceful protest.

“I’m still looking up and reading on stuff and learning,” Wallace said. “Exactly what the message we are trying to push across, learn, and understand. I think the messages that I have been putting out there on the racetrack during the anthem is speaking for itself, so I haven’t put much more thought into that.

“I loved that the official Kirk Price took that initiative and stood for what he believed in, kneeled for what he believed it, a man that served our nation in the military kneeled, so I thought that was pretty powerful.”

Some athletes have commented about Wallace on social media, including LeBron James, NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.

Wallace said he has had conversations with Joshua Dobbs of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two met when Dobbs played quarterback at the University of Tennessee, which is Wallace’s favorite college football team. Dobbs was among the Jacksonville Jaguar players and team officials who protested racial inequality and police brutality during a June 5 march from their stadium to the steps of the sheriff’s department.

“He reached out last night with some powerful quotes that he lives by and made a ton of sense and just kind of fit the narrative that we are living in the world today,” Wallace said. “There’s been a lot of outreach just from social media fan points, privately, that was probably one of the ones; but there is a lot of support in my corner from all aspects; from sports, from just normal people, people that are wanting to stand up for what’s right in this world.”

As for what is next, Wallace said he isn’t sure. He has ideas and is looking forward to a meeting Tuesday between “key leaders” in NASCAR and select drivers. They’ll discuss what more the sport can do after announcing this week it is prohibiting the display of the Confederate flag at all NASCAR events and facilities.

Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic that fans will be in the stands for a race since the NASCAR season resumed last month. Up to 1,000 military guests and family members will be allowed at the race. Up to 5,000 fans will be allowed for the June 21 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. As of Friday afternoon, tickets remained for that race.

Wallace looks forward to the return of fans and seeing more at races at some point.

“I would love to see us get back to normal and fans to come back in full capacity just to see how much more diverse or different demographics we bring in,” Wallace said. “I would love to see studies on that as we start allowing fans to come back.”

Wallace also knows that being more vocal can make him a target to some.

“I like to go out and sometimes spend time in the infield with the fans and have a good time,” Wallace said. “I haven’t been ridiculed against. I know that is going to change now. I’ve got to be careful what I do and that’s kind of the sad world we live in. My dad had texted me that he was proud of what I was doing on and off the racetrack, but he was worried about safety, going out in public and whatnot. Just crazy that you have to think about that sides of things.”

“Definitely have got to watch your back now and can’t be like that outspoken guy, just happy-go-lucky guy that would go take a trip on the golf cart or my longboard down into the infield, or whatever, and have a good time.”

Sorry, LeBron: Kyle Busch says ‘you can’t self-proclaim’ as greatest ever

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If we were choosing a fantasy team of four drivers across any era in NASCAR, Kyle Busch would list himself with David Pearson, Tim Flock and Dale Earnhardt.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the 2015 champion considers himself one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history yet.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” Busch told NBC Sports when asked during an interview this week. “Because it’s not for me to answer.”

The 2015 series champion was one of a few dozen drivers who sat down with a crew from NASCAR America to answer a series of questions, one of which was: What four drivers are on your NASCAR fantasy team?

Busch was the only NASCAR driver in his answer to cite LeBron James, who recently proclaimed himself to be the greatest NBA player of all time. Leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 championship after falling behind 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors made him The Greatest, James said, though others took umbrage at the assessment.

“Everybody was like how they’re the greatest team of all-time, they were the greatest team ever assembled,” James said. “And for us to come back, the way we came back in that fashion, I was like ‘You did something special.’ ”

Busch said he wouldn’t allow himself that declaration as NASCAR star.

“I’m kinda weirded out by what LeBron James had to say a few weeks ago about he feels as though he’s the greatest of all time,” Busch said. “You can’t self-proclaim that. I’ll never self-proclaim myself as the greatest of all time.”

The decided lack of hubris might seem discordant with the self-proclaimed “KB Show” who takes a bow to the grandstands after each of his victories and regularly challenges his detractors on social media. Busch seems to relish being the center of attention as one of the more polarizing drivers in the Cup Series.

But Busch, who has 194 victories across the top three series (including 51 in Cup), takes a more modest view in ranking his own accomplishments.

“Will I put myself in the discussion and say am I one of (the greatest ever)? Yes,” he said. “Do I feel as though I could be one of the greatest of all time, like if it’s top five that you’re talking about? I would say yes.

“But never the No. 1.”

NASCAR America will return to NBCSN at 5 p.m. on Feb. 11. Stay tuned for how drivers answered that question along with many others.

And watch this Friday at 8 p.m. on NBCSN as the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2019 class (Jeff Gordon, Jack Roush, Roger Penske, Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison) is inducted in Charlotte.

Regardless of how he ranks himself, Busch undoubtedly will be enshrined there someday.

Long: Pay attention to what Chase Elliott is doing in playoffs

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Don’t call Chase Elliott the Fourth to NASCAR’s Big 3.

Don’t say the Hendrick Motorsports driver has become a member of the Big 3.

Don’t label him a championship threat after his second win in the past three races and third in the last 11 — although no other remaining title contender can match those victory totals in the same stretch.

He’s just Chase, the kid, once adored in those old Victory Lane photos with his dad, who has grown up.

So stop with the labels and watch what he’s doing.

Elliott’s performance is beginning to mirror what Jimmie Johnson did in his run to a record-tying seven Cup championships. Johnson raised his performance as LeBron James does in the NBA playoffs and Tom Brady does during the NFL playoffs.

But it wasn’t just Johnson who excelled. It was the entire team. The pattern was always the same. The Hendrick Motorsports crew had better cars when it came time to race for a crown and Johnson took advantage.

Elliott is taking advantage of the faster cars crew chief Alan Gustafson and his team have provided.

The signs were there last year. Elliott had an average finish of 13.5 in the regular season and it dropped to 7.9 during the playoffs. He scored runner-up finishes in three of the first four playoff races and was in position to win at Martinsville before Denny Hamlin’s bump crashed him. Elliott finished second at Phoenix when he needed a win to advance to the championship race in Miami.

“Those pressure-packed situations, the only time you can learn from them is to be in them more often,” Elliott said. “I think it’s as simple as that. The more you’re comfortable with that, the better off you’re going to be for it.”

Elliott has turned those seconds into firsts this year. What started at Watkins Glen in August continued into the playoffs with his victories at Dover and Kansas. No one has more wins than Elliott in the first six playoffs races. 

Those victories guarantee nothing in the third round, which begins Sunday at Martinsville (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch — members of the Big 3 — each has at least three times as many playoff points as Elliott. That makes Harvick and Busch favorites to return to Miami. The other member of the Big 3, Martin Truex Jr., has 38 playoff points to Elliott’s 18 but Truex’s struggles at Kansas are concerning.

Still, that could leave one spot for Miami among Elliott, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola.

Elliott has less title experience then all of them but Almirola, but Elliott has shown he’s a quick learner, steeled by the team’s struggles early in the season.

“In my opinion what he was driving earlier in the year, in his Cup career, for sure, it’s the worst cars he’s driven,” Gustafson said. “When he had to make do with that, I felt bad for him at times, doing everything I could do, but wasn’t giving him a good enough car. He had to go and deal with that. It’s a struggle. It’s a battle, right?

“I think that he learned as he went through that. That’s helped improve him. You may pick up certain traits, certain attributes about tracks or different circumstances. Those are the things that he had to do earlier in the year that he may not have had to do earlier in his career because we were able to give him a much better racecar.

“As that’s happened, he’s improved. The pit crews have been great all year. Now we’ve gotten the cars much improved. All those things add up.”

For as good as Elliott and his team have been, they aren’t perfect. Weren’t even close Sunday.

“We made mistakes throughout the day,” Elliott said. “The only reason you weren’t talking about it was because we weren’t leading. That’s the big thing. When you’re out front, everybody is watching you. 

“When you’re not leading the race, mistakes happen all day long, but just trying not to make them towards the end I think is the big one. These next three weeks, there is no room for mistakes. I look forward to the challenge.”

Mistakes by others helped Elliott. Kevin Harvick’s speeding penalty on Lap 214 took him out of contention and helped put Elliott in position to lead the final 44 laps Sunday.

Harvick also dominated Dover until a valve stem was knocked off in a late pit stop. Elliott benefitted there as well. So we’ve yet to see a true Elliott vs. Harvick battle in these playoffs.

“I wish we could have raced Kevin for it straight up there at the end, have him not have his misfortune,” Elliott said after Sunday’s win. “I think he’s been the class of the mile‑and‑a‑half’s throughout the year.

“But just to run with him, be able to pace him lap time‑wise, be being 10 car lengths of him trying to get by him, I thought was very encouraging.”

There’s still time to see if Elliott and Harvick engage in a playoff duel. Or Elliott and someone else. So pay attention to that instead of trying to label where Elliott is as this third round begins.

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