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When the engines fell silent and the drivers got out of their cars, another sound emerged Monday at Talladega Superspeedway.

It started with a couple of fans singing.

Bub-ba! Bub-ba! Bub-ba!

Soon more joined.

Bub-ba! Bub-ba! Bub-ba!

Lydia Diaz, a 30-year-old mother of two and a Walmart employee, screamed so loudly that her head started to hurt, but she kept chanting the name Bubba Wallace.

Diaz was among a group of about 15 black fans who came from Atlanta to support Wallace, a day after NASCAR stated that a rope was discovered at his team’s garage stall in Talladega.

Later, the FBI said no federal hate crime was committed against Wallace because the rope had been there since October 2019 and there was no way of knowing back then that his team would be in that particular position this year. A NASCAR investigation could not determine why the pull rope to the garage bay door was designed that way and who did it.

MORE: Recent events leave Bubba Wallace hopeful but also worn out and frustrated

In the stands with Diaz on Monday were his fiance Mel Rose and her friend Brionne Horne. There were also Errin Bentley and Greg Drumwright, chief minister of the Citadel of Praise Church and Campus Ministries. Bentley had called Drumwright, telling him about the rope found at the Wallace garage stall, and asked Drumwright to help organize a group to go to Talladega.

By the time the race ended, Wallace was so far out on the pit road from the stands that Daiz said he seemed “a bit like an ant.” But the group continued to chant Wallace’s name.

“I listened to Bubba’s chants, I looked and saw a decent number of African Americans sitting in the stands,” said Wallace. “I thought, dude, that’s rude, that’s amazing. I guarantee that that was his first race. I felt compelled to walk there, I wanted to walk there. I wanted to share that moment with them. “

He did. Wallace slapped his hands through the fence and thanked them for being there.

“That was an epic moment for me,” said Bentley, 36, a restaurant employee. “That was an out-of-body experience.”

It was a more important moment for the sport, said Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and the sole black owner of a full-time Cup team.

“When I saw those fans leaning against the fence, I thought, man, this is amazing, this is what we need,” said Daugherty. “We need the symbolism that people are not discouraged to come and participate in our sport.

“It made me feel great. I am very excited. I’m telling you, NASCAR people better be careful. I have about a hundred people for whom I want to get garage and pit passes. It’s going to be great. They want to come to the racecourse.

“It will be great to see a sea of ​​color and to be hugged by our Caucasian brothers and sisters while we are there. Maybe we can go back to this being about the race, but the human race. “


Drumwright Pastor Greg is called. His church is in Greensboro, North Carolina, but his ministry is where healing and justice are needed.

He went to Brunswick, Georgia, after Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a white man while running.

Drumwright was in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died after a white police officer who had been fired had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. Drumwright traveled to Houston for Floyd’s funeral.

Drumwright then went to Atlanta after a fired white police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks.

Drumwright never expected that he would go to the Talladega, Alabama side.

But Bentley felt something had to be done after seeing the reports on the rope.

“I felt like if I was like the millions of other people who say I’m going to let someone else handle it, then I’m going to be part of the problem,” Bentley said. “It really is that simple for me. That’s really a big major problem that we have, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, whether it’s human rights, civil rights or anything of that nature, someone is always trying to pass something on to someone else.

“No one wants to take responsibility. No one wants to stand up and be the face. Too many people are afraid. That is part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. “

As much as NASCAR has progressed with diversity, its past and stereotype cast a long shadow on the sport. When Drumwright organized the group to go to Talladega on Monday, he and others received calls from friends and family urging them not to go.

“As of 2020, it is still commonly believed that blacks are unsafe in an overwhelmingly white space in the deep south,” Drumwright said.

It had been less than two weeks that NASCAR announced that it was banning the display of the Confederate flag at all of its events and facilities. Just the day before they were on the runway, a plane flew over the road with a Confederate flag and message for Defund NASCAR.

When the group with Drumwright stopped at a Dollar General store in Alabama to buy supplies for signs to take to the track, they said “literally the local residents told us, everyone should be careful … but they also told us we’re glad that you’re here. We needed you all to come here. Thank you for being here. “

Fans who made the trip to Atlanta to Talladega Superspeedway to support Bubba Wallace. Among those shown are Errin Bentley (far left) and Lydia Diaz (green shirt). (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images)


Drumwright was wearing a black shirt that said “We still can’t breathe.” Horne was among the few in the group wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. The message on Bentley’s shirt read: “We march. All of you crazy. We sit down. All of you crazy. We speak All of you crazy. We kneel All of you crazy. We die. Silence.”

The signs they carried included those saying:

“We are with Bubba”

“We hit with Bubba”

“Let freedom ring”

“Take your knee off your neck”

When they got to the track, they saw a tent set up not on the track property that sold Confederate flags.

“It is still difficult to see,” Horne said of the Confederate flag.

Members of the group admit to having received glances, rolling their eyes and seeing some people look away after arriving on the track.

But those who made the trip to Talladega also said they were warmly greeted by fans.

Horne, a 20-year-old student from Georgia Southern, said a fan approached the group members and asked them to take a photo with them.

“After that, it was like family after family after person after person asking us to take pictures (with them), showing their support and love for what we were doing for the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. “I think that completely changed the fear, the anxiety we had when entering Talladega.”

Bentley, who had never been to a NASCAR race before Monday, said he was more afraid to go to Talladega than at any other time he has protested on the streets. After attending Monday’s race, Bentley said, he would encourage black fans to go to a race and support Wallace.

“I would tell them not to be afraid,” he said. “If they were afraid, you don’t have to be afraid anymore.

“As long as we are afraid to do something, we have no control. We have no fight. You have to have courage, you have to have a heart, that will to want. (Wallace) needs our support. We need your support.

NASCAR Cup races this weekend at Pocono Raceway, July 5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and July 12 at Kentucky Speedway will take place without fans. The next race scheduled to have fans will be the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which will admit up to 30,000 fans.

Drumwright, who wants a meeting with NASCAR leadership, said he is looking to organize a larger group for the Bristol race.

Díaz, a mother of 2 and 3 year olds, said it was “mission accomplished” for the trip to Talladega, but acknowledges that more can be done in society.

“I have been here for the last month, fighting for everyone to be equal so that my children, when they grow up, can go wherever they want and do what they want and not have to worry about anyone judging who their father or who is her mother or by the color of her skin, “he said. “That’s what I’m here for, honestly, every day.

“He wanted Bubba to know that we supported him for that knot that was found in his garage. He wanted him to know that we were there for him. “

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