It’s been a whirlwind of a few days for Darrell Wallace Jr., to say the least.
An apparent noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR promptly turned the matter over to the FBI, which ultimately deemed the rope in question was installed last year. NASCAR later confirmed it was, indeed, a pull rope and that Wallace, NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver, was not the target of a hate crime.
In wake of the FBI’s and NASCAR’s findings, Wallace used a portion of his Tuesday appearance on CNN to run through the incident in detail from his perspective.
“My side needs to be heard,” Wallace said. “I don’t know what time it was — 5:30, 6 o’clock on Sunday evening after the race has been called, garages are closed. My crew was on a plane back to North Carolina. I was about to go out to dinner with a couple fellow competitors. We were talking about when we were going to leave, where we were going. In my motorhome, I get a call from the (NASCAR) president, Steve Phelps, and it’s a phone call I’ll never forget. It was one of those phone calls where you could automatically tell within the first couple seconds that something’s wrong. It immediately made me think of, ‘What did I do? What am I getting suspended for? What did I say wrong in an interview?’ Whatever it was. So I’m thinking all the bad things or whatever it could have been that I had done, whatever I said. So he’s like, ‘All right, we need to talk in person.’ So I’m like, ‘OK.’
“So he walks down to the motorhome, opens up the door and the look that he had on his face alerted me in a way that I’ll never forget as well. I’m still thinking like, ‘OK, what did I do? Let me know.’ Now mind you, I got to the racetrack at 9:30, 10 o’clock and slept all day because that’s all we were able to do. Go straight to my motorhome, that’s the only place where I’m allowed to go. Not allowed to be in the crunch. But the conversation that I had with Steve Phelps was — I would say, and I’m speaking for him — I would probably say one of the hardest things, if not the hardest thing he’s ever had to tell somebody. Tears rolling down his face, choked up on every word that he was trying to say that the evidence he brought to me that a hate crime was committed, quote, unquote.
“I immediately thought my family was in danger and so I was about ready to call my mom and dad and make sure everybody was OK. It was in the garage stall where our car was at and so I was kind of taken back and not really comprehending everything. I was just kind of like, ‘What?’ But the way Steve was communicating to me that everything was going on, it showed the testament to him and the character that he has and how he’s representing the sport and how he wants to stand up for what’s right. He’s not going to tolerate any racist acts or anything. I stand by Steve, I stand by NASCAR. Like they said in their statements, if it happens again, it wouldn’t change anything. They would do it all over again. But I’ve never seen the noose, I never reported it. Like I said, I was going to dinner.”