Sources: Petty to support Wallace at Talladega

Racing icon Richard Petty will attend Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway to stand in solidarity with Bubba Wallace, sources tell ESPN’s Marty Smith.

Petty decided to travel to the Alabama superspeedway after a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall Sunday.

Sources tell Smith that Petty said the “most important thing for me right now is hugging my driver.”

Petty later issued a statement on Twitter condemning the racist act.

The race was postponed from Sunday because of inclement weather. It will mark the first race that Petty, 82, attends since the sport was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wallace, who is Black, drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. Wallace said in a statement Sunday that he was “incredibly saddened” by the act.

Authorities said Monday that the FBI is investigating the discovery of the noose, and the governor of Alabama condemned the act against Wallace, who is NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver.

Former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. also took to Twitter to offer his support for Wallace in the wake of Sunday’s incident.

Wallace two weeks ago successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its venues, though the sanctioning body has not outlined plans on how it will enforce the restriction. Disgruntled fans with Confederate flags drove past the main entrance to the Alabama race track prior to Sunday’s race, while a plane flew above the track pulling a banner of the flag that read “Defund NASCAR.”

Hours after the race was postponed by rain, NASCAR said the noose had been found. The sanctioning body vowed to do everything possible to find who was responsible and “eliminate them from the sport.” It has not offered other details.

Talladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said NASCAR contacted the FBI, which was handling the investigation. The FBI field office in Birmingham did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was “shocked and appalled” by the “vile act” against Wallace, an Alabama native.

“There is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” Ivey said. “Bubba Wallace is one of us; he is a native of Mobile and on behalf of all Alabamians, I apologize to Bubba Wallace as well as to his family and friends for the hurt this has caused and regret the mark this leaves on our state.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.