The 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race was supposed to be a monumental moment in the sport’s history.
It marked a return to historic North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina after more than 25 years away.
The track, which saw legends from Richard Petty, to Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt win there, had fallen into disrepair after shutting down in 1996 and many believed it would never again see the light of day.
But there were those around the sport who refused to let it go. And thanks to the efforts of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and funds raised due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was rebuilt.
Earnhardt Jr. and friends personally removed weeds that had grown up through the cracked racing surface. They watched as grandstands were torn down and then rebuilt, and the track was built into a viable venue for a NASCAR race in 2023.
This weekend, they watched the culmination of the fruits of their labor. The NASCAR Cup Series returned to fame North Wilkesboro and brought the series’ biggest stars with it.
It was a special moment, culminated with a win from 2021 series champ Kyle Larson.
But sadly, it will now be overshadowed.
It’s hard to talk about NASCAR’s roots in the south without talking about its history of racism, with a confederate flag often a popular sight around tracks before being banned in 2020.
The disgusting behavior reared its ugly ahead again over the weekend. First, when Bubba Wallace, the series’ only black driver, received loud boos during driver introductions.
.@bubbawallace’s response to the boos aimed at him during his #AllStarRace intro.#NASCAR pic.twitter.com/fibQq11N5P
— Daniel McFadin (@danielmcfadin) May 21, 2023
Wallace took the boos in stride. But after the race, which Wallace finished second in, things turned ugly.
Fans in the stands allegedly tuned their radios to Wallace’s team’s frequency and hurled abuse at the driver.
“Go back to where you came from you a******,” the fan reportedly said. “You’re not wanted in NASCAR.”
Wallace appeared to respond by offering up a one-finger salute to the fan.
But while NASCAR has unquestionably come a long way, it’s yet another sign of how far the sport has to go.