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Dale Earnhardt Jr. expresses support for Bubba Wallace: 'He's part of our family'

The former NASCAR great expressed his support for the sport's only Black driver after NASCAR announced a noose had been found in Wallace's garage stall.
/ Source: TODAY

Not only did his fellow drivers have Bubba Wallace's back after a disturbing incident ahead of Monday's NASCAR race, one of the sport's most popular former stars expressed his support.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke about his concern for NASCAR's only Black driver after the organization announced a noose was found in Wallace's garage stall on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked fans to show Bubba Wallace some love after NASCAR announced a noose had been found in his stall ahead of a race.
Former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked fans to show Bubba Wallace some love after NASCAR announced a noose had been found in his stall ahead of a race. Getty Images

"You think about Bubba and the load that he's carried for this sport over the last couple weeks, it's not been an easy thing," Earnhardt Jr. said Monday on NBC Sports' NASCAR America show. "There's a lot of people rallying around Bubba, but I don't know that any of us really understands how that must've felt, and that worries me for Bubba, not just because of his physical safety, but his mental stability.

"I know that he is feeding off of the support ... We just need to keep protecting him and keep taking care of him. He's part of our family."

A group of Wallace's fellow competitors and crews pushed his No. 43 car to the front of the line before Monday afternoon's GEICO 500 race in a show of solidarity that left Wallace holding back tears.

He then shared hugs with his fellow drivers as well as the co-owner of his racing team, 82-year-old NASCAR legend Richard Petty, who made a special appearance at the track to support Wallace.

The 26-year-old driver tweeted a stunning photo of the scene with the word, "Together."

Earnhardt tweeted on Sunday night that he hoped Wallace would win the race on Monday after it had been postponed a day by rain. He followed with another tweet of support on Monday morning.

"I don’t worry about our sport,'' he wrote. "I have confidence NASCAR’s leadership will find who did this and continue pushing us in the right direction. I do worry about Bubba. I hope Bubba is feeling loved and supported. Keep sending him that love and support. He needs it now more than ever."

Wallace finished in 14th place after leading the race at one point.

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"Bubba is driving with so much emotion and spirit," Earnhardt said on NASCAR America. "He's taken the emotions that he's feeling and channeling them into his performance. I'm seeing a driver and a guy really growing up extremely fast, maturing right in front of us and putting things together on the racetrack that I haven't seen that team capable of doing in the past."

NASCAR and the FBI are investigating the situation involving the noose, which Wallace tweeted was a "despicable act of racism and hatred" that left him "incredibly saddened."

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The incident came two weeks after Wallace wore an "I Can't Breathe — Black Lives Matter" T-shirt during the national anthem at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Just days later, NASCAR banned Confederate flags at its races, which Wallace supported in an appearance on TODAY the next day.

Several Confederate flags were seen on vehicles outside the racetrack at Talladega on Monday, but his fellow drivers made sure he knew he had their support before the race.

"I've been in this sport for a couple decades and there's been conversations about Confederate flags and social issues before in our sport," Earnhardt said. "This time, I've never heard the drivers speak as loudly as they have in support of Bubba with their own messages ... It worries me to see Bubba under so much stress, but I know that he has so many people supporting him that are his peers."