It's no secret that NASCAR has a shaky reputation when it comes to the issue of racism within its ranks and elements of its fan base. And in a powerful message to both the sport and the world, Richard Petty Motorsports driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.—the only Black driver in the sport's top-level Cup Series—will don a Black Lives Matter livery on the No. 43 Chevrolet for tomorrow's race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.
The livery features two clasped black and white hands on the hood, along with the words "Compassion, Love, Understanding." On the rear fenders, #BlackLivesMatter is written in large white letters over the car's blacked-out body. Petty himself—who previously condemned national anthem protests on this issue—also had input on the car, with the peace sign below "#BlackLivesMatter" being his own personal touch. The symbol is a theme on many of Petty's previous cars, but this one is made up of hands of all colors.
"People will look up what this hashtag means, and hopefully get a better understanding and know that we are not trying to create division. We are trying to unite." Wallace said in the reveal video, adding that the idea started out with running a blacked-out car and evolved from there. "Running this race car... I think it’s going to speak volumes for what I stand for, but also what the initiative that NASCAR, the whole sport, is trying to push."
Earlier this week, Wallace called for a ban on fans flying the Confederate flag at races in an interview on CNN. "No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them," he told Don Lemon. NASCAR asked that fans "refrain" from flying the flag back in 2015 but took no action to actually prevent it, and they remain a visible presence at certain tracks.
NASCAR also held a moment of silence before Sunday's race in Atlanta following a speech from president Steve Phelps where he recognized that "the Black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better. The time is now to listen."