It wasn’t a hoax. It was real.”
Stanley Ruffin, a former FBI agent, tells viewers this in “RACE – Bubba Wallace”, a Netflix documentary that follows the career of NASCAR’s only Black driver and explores his personal rise and role in social justice. This series is for non-NASCAR viewers who are not familiar with Wallace’s rise or the details surrounding the noose he found in his garage at an Alabama track.
Wallace had succeeded in calling on NASCAR for the Confederate Flag to be banned at events in June 2020. Wallace had successfully called on NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its June 2020 events. NASCAR informed Wallace two weeks later that a noose was found in his Talladega Superspeedway stall.
This incident took place during a time of national racial reckoning after the murders of Ahmaud and George Floyd. Wallace felt the need to be public for the first time in their lives. He was 26 years old and was NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver. Wallace was an underperformer looking for his first Cup Series win.
FBI investigators determined that the noose was in the garage stall for several months since it had last been used. Wallace was not the victim in a hate crime.
He was ridiculed by the nation — then-President Donald Trump charged Wallace with a hoax, even though Wallace didn’t discover or even see the noose. Wallace was accused of orchestrating the whole incident in order to improve his career.
Erik Parker directed six episodes of the series that chronicles Wallace’s journey to becoming a change agent and his transformation into a voice and platform. Wallace requested a series — he asked Netflix to make something similar to its “Drive to Survive Formula One Show” — to document his first year of driving for 23XI Racing.
Wallace realized that the project needed to include his turbulent 2020.
Wallace stated that he just wanted to race. According to Wallace, he told The Associated Press that he was “a pain in my ass”, and Parker, the director, tried to keep his eyes on 2020.
Wallace was a sensation and attracted millions of dollars in sponsorship in 2020. He turned it into the job of his dreams. This funding enabled Denny Hamlin to launch 23XI,. Wallace wanted to document what he felt was his best chance of winning his first Cup win.
Wallace stated to AP that he wanted the entire process documented. “And I wanted people see what it takes and how difficult it is to succeed at this level. I wanted to show what it was like in my mind when I entered these races.
“But, there’s also the side that goes beyond the track. Everything about 2020 was how Bubba Wallace made his name on the racetrack. Erik wanted to document the history of the racetrack, while I was focusing on the racing. It created an interesting dynamic.”
Parker relies on Wallace from “RACE” for the emotional rollercoaster ride of Talladega. From the discovery of the noose, to Wallace’s first career victory at the same track 15 months later.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps notified Wallace of the problem, and the driver made the call to his father. Their relationship has been fraught since Wallace’s 2016 divorce from his parents. This theme was suggested as the root cause of Wallace’s depression struggles.
Wallace told his father, “They found a noose.”
“You got a gun?” Wallace said Darrell Wallace Sr. replied.
“You must get one.”
Parker said to AP that asking Wallace to relive 2020 was a conflict with Wallace’s life.
Parker said that it seemed like Parker’s mantra was moving forward, moving ahead, moving forward. He added that he felt the need to document this “such a difficult time, not only for Bubba but for the nation.”
Parker explained to AP that he could see Bubba trying to move on, but he had already moved on. “So getting him home, it felt like dragging him back into the past while he was running towards the future. Although it wasn’t easy, it was a worthwhile endeavor.
This was Wallace’s attitude Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. He deflected any questions about his race.
He is still NASCAR’s only Black driver, but Jesse Iwuji (34-year-old lieutenant commander in Navy Reserve) will be the second full-time Black driver in NASCAR this season and plans to race in the second-tier Xfinity Series.
Iwuji and Emmitt Smith, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, co-own his team. Emmitt Smith entered NASCAR one year after Jordan joined the ownership ranks. Pitbull also joined the ownership ranks. Floyd Mayweather will be competing in the Daytona 500 with a car built by NY Racing, which is owned by John Cohen, a Black entrepreneur.
Jusan Hamilton, Cup Series race director, will be the first Black race director in NASCAR’s longest-running event.
McDonald’s was one of Wallace’s sponsors and announced Wednesday a streetwear collection in partnership with 23XI and Wallace. The 23XI Speed Institute will receive proceeds from the 10-piece collection. This program focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion in motorsports.
Hamlin stated that the McDonald’s line was part of 23XI’s desire for greater boundaries beyond the NASCAR norm – a directive from Jordan.
Hamlin stated, “I believe it was very important to our team in general that we just be different.” “I can guarantee that this McDonald’s special collection will be consumed very quickly by the younger crowd, and you’ll soon see people again wearing NASCAR gear.”