BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Following events at Talladega Superspeedway this past weekend involving an act of hate, as well as the flying of the recently banned Confederate flag, race-goers are wondering what the plan is to combat this kind of behavior at the upcoming All-Star race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield reached out to officials at Bristol Motor Speedway for comment and received the following statement Monday afternoon.
“We believe NASCAR’s statement speaks well to the solidarity of our sport regarding this incident, and we stand behind it as well as NASCAR President Steve Phelps comments this afternoon that this act was taken very seriously,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway. “I also applaud the NASCAR drivers and crew members who gathered today to support Bubba Wallace as they pushed his car to the front of the line-up this afternoon to start today’s race. We are all working together to make sure race tracks are welcoming to everyone.”
“Regarding NASCAR’s policy for Confederate flags, we will utilize the established procedures and protocols we have in place to enforce any prohibited items.”Jerry Caldwell, Bristol Motor Speedway GM
NASCAR officials released a statement shortly after becoming aware of the situation on Sunday afternoon, stating they stand with Bubba Wallace. On Monday, NASCAR President, Steve Phelps, hosted a conference call to address the events of this past weekend.
“This is a family that needs to take care of one of its family members who’s been attacked,” said Phelps. He said Wallace has been given extra security detail and that the incident is still under investigation. Phelps said whoever is found responsible will be banned for life from all NASCAR events.
Drivers from all over took to social media immediately following the break of the news, standing in support of Wallace. Driver, Joey Logano, released a video on his Twitter page displaying his disapproval of this incident.
“I cannot believe the hate that someone can have in their heart to just put a device that kills people in someone’s garage because of the color of his skin or what he stands for,” said Logano.
Wallace also released a statement regarding the incident, speaking out against racism, just like he did following the ban of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events. However, this weekend’s events at Talladega Superspeedway proved that people will still fly the flag regardless of the rules.
With merchandise sold just off the property and the flyover of a Confederate flag with the words “Defund Nascar”, the topic of banning the flag remains a hot debate. Charles “Sonny” Ledford grew up in Erwin, Tennessee, and said he started racing back in the early years of NASCAR’S foundation.
He says it was a different time back then and the flag meant something else. “NASCAR was built out of southern people and so the Confederate flag I think is part of the history of NASCAR,” said Ledford. Despite NASCAR’S recent decision to ban the flag, he believes it’s not a sign of hate and should remain a part of racing.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with slavery, in my day, it was a sign of being a rebel. I don’t think they should even ban the flag at all. I don’t even think that should even be an issue,” said Ledford.
NASCAR is standing by its original statement that the display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties. Although there was a significant amount of flags at Talladega this past weekend, NASCAR officials said all of those flags were located off the property.
As far as what will happen at Bristol Motor Speedway for the race, the ban on flags is still in place but NASCAR and BMS do not have control of what happens off-track property.
Ahead of Monday’s race, Wallace’s competitors helped push his car to the grid in a show of solidarity for NASCAR’S only black driver who races full time.