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President Trump tweets about Bubba Wallace

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning about Bubba Wallace, asking if the only Black driver racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series had apologized for what the President called “another hoax.”

Although not specifically referencing what the FBI described as a noose found in Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway, Trump references how drivers and NASCAR officials stood behind Wallace during pre-race ceremonies before the June 21 race.

Trump, who gave the command to begin the Daytona 500 in February and his motorcade led the field on to the track, tweeted: “Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

The FBI determined that no hate crime was committed against Wallace because evidence showed that the garage tie-down rope was fashioned as a noose in October 2019 and no one could have known that Wallace’s team would occupy that stall eight months later. The rope in Wallace’s stall was the only one fashioned as noose.

The noose was discovered by a crew member of Wallace’s team. Because of NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols, drivers are not allowed in the garage area.

Wallace was informed of the noose by NASCAR President Steve Phelps. NASCAR’s investigation did not determine who fashioned the rope in that manner or why.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson told drivers in a group chat that he planned to stand with Wallace during the national anthem before the Talladega race to show his support for Wallace. Former champion Kevin Harvick suggested that drivers push Wallace’s car from his spot in the starting grid to the front of the field.

Drivers did that and stood with Wallace for the invocation and national anthem. Many hugged him before the race. Richard Petty, who had not attended a race since NASCAR resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic, stood with Wallace. After the drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the grid, Wallace climbed from the car and was overcome by emotion. Petty comforted Wallace by putting his arm around the driver.

NASCAR issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.

Kurt Busch to make 700th career Cup start

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Former champion Kurt Busch will make his 700th career Cup start today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports App).

Busch becomes only the 16th driver to amass at least 700 career Cup starts. Richard Petty owns the series record with 1,185 starts.

Busch, who starts second today at Indy, has the most career starts among active drivers. He has two more starts than Kevin Harvick, who is scheduled to make his 700th career Cup start July 19 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Busch made his first career Cup start Sept. 24, 2000 at Dover, finishing 18th.

He has 31 career victories, including the 2017 Daytona 500. Busch won the 2004 Cup title. He has 307 career top-10 finishes.

The 41-year-old marvels at making his 700th career Cup start today.

“It’s amazing,” Busch said. “To have this opportunity and to have been blessed to have raced with so many great race teams over the years, just making it past the local track was something that I thought was an achievement because my dad was a local racer. He won a lot. But it was like money, sponsors, and the whole challenge of even getting to like the Southwest Tour and Late Model division, that was even tough for us way back in the past.

“So, it’s amazing. Twenty years of racing at the top series level and now having 700 starts, I never would have guessed.”

Busch is 10th in points entering today’s race. He has yet to win his year but has three top-five finishes and nine top-10 results in 15 starts for Chip Ganassi Racing.

MOST CAREER CUP STARTS

1,185 – Richard Petty

906 – Ricky Rudd

890 – Terry Labonte

883 – Dave Marcis

882 – Mark Martin

829 – Kyle Petty

828 – Bill Elliott

809 – Darrell Waltrip

805 – Jeff Gordon

784 – Michael Waltrip

763 – Ken Schrader

748 – Sterling Marlin

729 – Bobby Labonte

706 – Rusty Wallace

700 – Kurt Busch

Brad Daugherty: ‘It’s incumbent upon us at NASCAR to do better’

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Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, said NASCAR is going in the right direction in its battle against racial bias and systemic inequality — but there is still more work to be done.

“It’s incumbent upon us at NASCAR to do better,” Daugherty said in a media teleconference Thursday afternoon. “And I’m telling you, we’ve got the cats that want to do better.”

Daugherty applauded NASCAR for its efforts to eliminate bias and racism, including banning the Confederate flag from being displayed at racetracks, as well as its support of Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver in the sport.

“The actions that have been taken initially are remarkable,” Daugherty said. “By standing up, removing obstacles for people of color from some of the events, I think that is paramount.

“The diversity program NASCAR has, one I helped co-found, continues to evolve. So there needs to be more resources for that program. We need to encourage more fan participation, which I think will be a lot easier to do, seeing that we don’t have the Confederate flags and those types of things in our midst.

“I’ve always talked about bringing more for young kids to the racetrack of color, letting them come, see, touch and feel and being around these race cars. I think as NASCAR continues to evolve as a company and as a culture, I think just having open arms and creating more opportunity and more access to the sport is what it’s really about.

“We need to create more avenues of access to the sport. We need to encourage more people to come, enjoy what goes on on race weekend. Once you get the masses there and see race cars going 200 mph, six inches apart, who’s not going to be hooked?”

Daugherty also addressed how NASCAR handled the discovery of a noose found in Wallace’s garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. The incident led to an FBI investigation that eventually disproved the incident as a hate crime, saying that it was just a knot that had been placed on the door late last year to facilitate lifting and closing.

“I’m glad NASCAR reacted the way they did,” Daugherty said. “No doubt about it swiftly, fairly, but with a heavy hand. I think that was needed. But I said that day it doesn’t matter, we’re going forward and any distractions (like) people flying the flag over the racetrack and outside, man, good luck to you, do what you got to do.

“Then when it was found to not be something that was placed there, something that had been there for a while, I was relieved. We have so much in our world that’s so politicized, it’s awful. It’s a tough time being in our country because everything is left or right and people’s reactions I thought were just really bad, because everyone in the media really wants something to be so significant and such a problem. I thought it was great for our sport. I think it showed we overreacted just a little bit, like we should have, and found out that it wasn’t true. So we can push that aside and it doesn’t matter and we move on.”

Daugherty said he was brought to tears when the entire NASCAR garage followed Bubba Wallace and his race car onto pit road prior to Monday’s rescheduled Cup race.

“It was a significant moment for me and I’ve been in the sport for 30 years,” Daugherty said. “You always wonder who was on board in anything, any movement. And when you see a movement like this, you’re looking through that garage area and you’re looking at the faces and 99% of those faces are or not the same as mine or Bubba’s, you wonder who really has your back?

“… When I looked up and saw those guys pushing that race car out, it brought tears to my eyes because it made me realize that when I walk into that garage area, that’s my home, I’m welcome there.”

Daugherty concedes that NASCAR and society still have a ways to go to see true equality both on and off the racetrack.

“I get a lot of uneducated comments all the time,” Daugherty said. “And I think when we have something like this out front and the world can see, then you have to pay attention. You can’t just broad brush it and put us in this box.

“We can no longer be put in that box that we’ve been in for the past 60 years. Now you have to look at this sport and you can be cynical, I don’t have a problem with that or pessimistic, I think that’s fair. But you have to pay attention.”

Daugherty revealed that his team’s No. 37 Chevrolet Camaro, driven by Ryan Preece, will carry a special paint scheme for this weekend’s Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway. The paint scheme will highlight an initiative – PG.com/TakeOnRace – that Daugherty said “will create the opportunity for communication based on eliminating inequality, racism, bias and insensitivity.”

“When I saw The King (Richard Petty) walking down the pit road there (with Wallace and hundreds of other Cup team members), it warmed my heart because he’s from a different genre, different generation and expectations probably wouldn’t be as high for him as it should be or would be for me,” Daugherty said. “But when I saw him walking down, I saw his statement (about the noose). I said, ‘Man, we’re rolling.’

“So the world saw that and we’re in a better place today in NASCAR than we were two weeks ago and I’m really excited about the future. I’m happy and I’m very proud to be a part of this organization.”

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Bubba Wallace shares with Dale Jr. behind scene stories from Talladega

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Bubba Wallace spent time talking with NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Tuesday discussing some of the events of the last few days at Talladega Superspeedway.

Wallace reveals his emotions before the race, the quip Richard Petty told him to help settle his emotions before climbing into the car and celebrating with fans at their first race after the event.

Here is part of the conversation Wallace and Earnhardt had for NASCAR America at Home:

Dale Jr.: What were you thinking as drivers pushed you down pit road before the race?

Bubba Wallace: I had walked out with headphones on just to kind of block out the noise and just kind of escape. Music is my escape, Dale. I forgot who came and tapped me, maybe it was (Corey) LaJoie or someone told me, ‘You ready to roll?’ I think that was when kind of the emotion came through … (That morning) I woke up and jumped on (the driver group chat) and Jimmie Johnson said ‘I’ll be standing next to Bubba during the anthem today’ and I lost it, I lost it right there. It’s not the hate that breaks me, it’s the support, knowing that people out there support me, makes you feel good, it pulls on your heartstrings for sure.

Bubba Wallace with Jimmie Johnson before Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

So I think that’s kind the emotion I was running through that whole time. So getting out of the car, I had a lot of emotion there, just going through everything. It sucks to be kind of carrying all of that weight but it’s part of the journey. Being able to turn around and see all the drivers standing there was really cool. I don’t know what made me look and see if the whole garage was there. Jimmie had talked to me about it. He had called me a couple of hours before the race and said that people reached out and wanted to be a part of that. So I stood up on the door and I looked and saw basically the entire garage and I lost it. I stood up and almost collapsed. It looked like Atlanta all over again (laughs).

But man, it was something truly incredible to witness and to be a part of.  It makes me proud to have a voice in NASCAR and also be a driver and be a part of this sport, a family sport and we all know it’s family. As much as we give each other crap on the racetrack, I will say for a fact, word for word, I got out of the car and I said I don’t like half you guys but I do appreciate all of this (laughs). It was a true testament of how big a family sport this is.”

Dale Jr.: Tell me a little bit about NASCAR President Steve Phelps. Who is he to you?

Bubba Wallace: He’s becoming a bigger and bigger friend than he is … the president of the sanctioning body. I fired off a text message to him a couple of weeks ago. One of the first things I said, ‘Hey, I look at you as a friend, so if I say anything that offends you, we’re friends.’ … I told him we need to take a big stand. We needed to take a big stand and stand up for what’s right. He quickly called me right after that and we had a really good conversation of where he stood and where he wants the sport to go and where he wants us all to go as a whole. That was pretty powerful there.

“He’s been very transparent with me. … The conversation that I had about what went down Sunday was, one, scared the hell out of me because he called me and it was one of those like you just did something wrong, like, my mind was racing, what interview did I do did I say the wrong thing … he was like we needed to talk in person. He comes over to the bus and he walks in and he’s kind of got of that really quiet mellow voice. I said, ‘Hey Steve, how is it going?’ (He said) ‘not good.’ …

When he finally looked up at me, he had tears in his eyes. I don’t know what’s going on, what he’s about to say, what I’m getting at is showing how much Sunday meant to him and offended him and hurt him, showed the character that he is and the passion that he has behind the sport but also his drivers and his friends. That he was disrespected, he was hurt, he felt threatened. He was not going to let this get away and blow under the rug. He was going to do everything in his power to find justice for this and to this day he is still carrying that and even beyond.”

Dale Jr.: What is your personal support system like? Who is helping you through this?

Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Bubba Wallace: One, Amanda, my girlfriend. She has been super supportive. … She knew how much pressure and how much I was going through from Sunday throughout the race, everything that went on the whole pre-race, just the whole couple of days and couple of weeks I’ve been going through. … She has been a huge support so I love her for that. My mom, my sister and my dad. They’ve been all been there. …

“Talked to (Ryan) Blaney a lot. He was over here last week and we had a good conversation, talking about everything that is going on in the sport and the world, how crazy it is and what we could do to be better. I think that small little support group there on top of everybody reaching out, including yourself. … It’s cool to see that support.”

Dale Jr.: What has it been like to see new fans come to the sport?

Bubba Wallace: Man, that has been really cool. I think that was a powerful moment even after the race. I was pumped for Blaney. I was contemplating walking out to the finish line and I was like that’s a long walk. I’ll wait until he drives by. I heard the Bubba chants and I looked over and I see a decent amount of African Americans sitting in the stands. I was like, dude, that’s badass, that’s awesome. I guarantee you that was their first race. I felt obligated to walk over there, I wanted to walk over there. I wanted to kind of share that moment with them.

“They were like, ‘We’re all the way from Atlanta, we drove over here to check out our first NASCAR race,’ and they were all so proud of me and proud to be there and happy to be there and it was super cool to witness and be able to do the interview with them in the background screaming and hollering in support was super cool.

“I’ve been saying it for the last couple of weeks and I’ve always stood by this, I want everybody to feel welcome. When I go to a sporting event, when I go to a (Charlotte) Hornets game or a (Carolina) Panthers game, I don’t feel like I’m unwelcome because of who I look like. I want that same feeling for anybody that comes to a NASCAR event, that comes to a race and … the Confederate flag was a thing that kind of held people back and maybe the actions of some fans toward other people held people back. I’m trying to change that narrative and show, hey, come on out. You don’t have to cheer on me. You can cheer on Ryan Blaney, whatever. … Learn about the sport. Learn about the strategy. Know that we’re just not driving in circles because we’re driving on ovals. We go straight a little bit. Learn the pit stops, what it takes, the choreography of that. Learns the ins and outs of the sport. That’s where you get hooked.”

Bubba Wallace with fans after Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Dale Jr.: Is racing a necessary outlet for you at these times?

Bubba Wallace: Absolutely. I told Jimmie (Johnson) after the race, we were walking back to our buses, I told him, man, I wish that race didn’t end, it was a lot of fun. Now the work starts. Racing is not work and you know that.

“(Richard Petty) The King, right before I climbed in, he said, ‘Well, this is your chance to flip off that switch on the back of your head where we shut our brains off and go out.’ He said here’s that little switch you can pull off. We had talked about it when he got there to the track a couple of hours before with him, myself and Brian Moffitt (CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports) were sitting there and talking. Drivers have that switch. Once you put that helmet on it, it hits that switch down and you turn it off. He said, now you get to turn off that switch, so go have fun.”

Drivers, crews stand with Bubba Wallace

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All drivers and crew members stood with Bubba Wallace before Monday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in a show of unity for the series’ lone Black driver, a day after a noose was left in his team’s garage stall.

Drivers pushed Wallace’s No. 43 car to the front of the grid before pre-race ceremonies as Wallace sat in the car. Crew members followed drivers in a parade to the end of pit road.

Afterward, as he climbed from his car, Wallace sat on door’s ledge and lowered his head. Car owner Richard Petty consoled him. Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and others hugged him.

MORE: FBI investigating noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall

MORE: Athletes from various sports show support for Bubba Wallace

Petty stood with Wallace for the invocation and anthem. All the drivers stood behind Wallace with crew members behind them.

“This is such a big family in the garage area and the news has disturbed us all,” Johnson told Fox before the race. “Of course, we want justice in a sense, we want to understand who and why and all of those things, but until those answers are answered, we want to stand with our friend, we want to stand with Bubba and that’s what took place through last night and this morning and this idea came together today and it started within the drivers. As the crew members caught wind that we wanted to push Bubba’s car and stand with him during the national anthem and the teams wanted to get involved as well and you saw the support. Pretty amazing.”

Ryan Blaney, one of Wallace’s closest friends, shared his thoughts on the moment during the red flag for rain near the end of Stage 1.

“I think all the support he’s gotten, especially last night and today, and the past three weeks from everyone in the industry has definitely been great and he really appreciates it,” Blaney told Fox. “Yesterday, what happened was absolutely disgusting and I was very, very mad about it. Everyone was. But I thought today with everyone showing their support, not only drivers, crew members, teams. The fans were awesome showing their support to Bubba and everybody whose been oppressed. I’m always going to stand behind him 100% of the way.”