Why NASCAR’s support for Wallace was a huge moment for the sport

Opinion: NASCAR’s tracks are known for noise but one of the sport’s loudest moments was enveloped by the hush of silence on Monday.

Why NASCAR’s support for Wallace was a huge moment for the sport

It started slowly, a gathering of Cup Series drivers, first a few, then them all, surrounding the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet where it sat in the starting grid line on pit road before the start of the rain-delayed race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Soon the collective group found their cause – slowing pushing the No. 43, along with its regular driver Bubba Wallace, out of line and toward the exit of pit road, firmly establishing it as the first car on the grid.

As the car went further down pit road, the group behind the car grew in number – crew members first, track workers and finally – with their pre-race duties complete – the NASCAR officials who would work the race on pit road.

No social distancing, but everyone with a mask.

Such is the way of things during the COVID-19 pandemic which was the first issue to knock NASCAR on its heels this season, but likely won’t be its last.

Darrell Wallace Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Victory Junction and Richard Petty

Darrell Wallace Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Victory Junction and Richard Petty

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

There was a smattering of fans allowed in for the race – about 5,000 – but the entire episode was undertaken in virtual silence.

In more than 20 years covering motorsports I have never heard a louder sound emanate from a speedway.

There were no words, but the message was clear.

As Clint Bowyer put so succinctly on Twitter, “When you f*ck with family you’re f*cking with us all.”

I don’t know why someone would feel it necessary to construct a noose Sunday afternoon in the garage stall of Wallace, the only full time African American driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series.

Perhaps their heart really is filled with that much hate.

Perhaps they dislike NASCAR’s new policy of not allowing the Confederate flag at its races or on its properties.

Perhaps they don’t like NASCAR’s recent stance on racial justice or the #BlackLivesMatter message Wallace had on his car recently at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

None of it really matters, really.

Darrell Wallace Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Victory Junction and Richard Petty

Darrell Wallace Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Victory Junction and Richard Petty

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Whoever did it will be found, I honestly believe that, and they will be forever banned from NASCAR events.

Perhaps that’s their wish, or they don’t really care.

But I do want thank the guilty party for one thing.

You didn’t heal a nation, or everyone’s heart or even change anyone’s mind.

What you did was unite a sport in a way in which it has never been before.

Oh, there will still be battles on the track, arguments in the garage and maybe even a fist or two.

But on Monday, NASCAR stood for something more than itself, more than its collective history as an organization has ever done before.

That’s real change.

How long it lasts is up to everyone who participated on Monday and those who watched from the grandstands and on TV.

Ultimately, NASCAR and its drivers aren’t going to cure the ills of society but on Monday they took a giant step in helping to heal their own.

I, for one, was honored to be able to witness it – mask and all.

Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains Within the sound of silence

- “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel (1965)


Read Also:

shares
comments
Bubba Wallace after Talladega: "This sport is changing"

Previous article

Bubba Wallace after Talladega: "This sport is changing"

Next article

NASCAR drivers welcomed return of 'cheering' fans at Talladega

NASCAR drivers welcomed return of 'cheering' fans at Talladega
Load comments
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020