‘You’re Not Wanted in NASCAR’: Bubba Wallace’s Radio Hijacked During Race
The hateful message was broadcast on Wallace’s team radio shortly after he crossed the line at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
NASCAR team radio transmissions can get vulgar or intense in the heat of the moment, but outbursts of anger are usually limited to drivers, spotters, and crew chiefs in the pits. At Sunday's All-Star Race, however, an unknown party jumped on Bubba Wallace's frequency with a derogatory message.
As reported by Motorsport.com, the incident occurred shortly after Wallace passed the checkered flag at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Sunday. An unauthorized person was heard transmitting on Wallace's channel, which said “Go back to where you came from you asshole. You’re not wanted in NASCAR." After the incident, a spokesperson for 23XI Racing indicated that Wallace had not heard the comments, nor acknowledged them over the radio.
Racing-wise, though, it was a good day for Wallace, albeit with a bittersweet ending. He finished second behind Kyle Larson, who left with the $1 million prize from the winner-takes-all race. “It just wasn’t meant to be,” Wallace said in a video on Twitter, adding “We were the best of the rest, so I guess we can be proud about that.” He made no mention of the radio incident.
NASCAR has confirmed it is investigating the matter to determine the individuals involved and the manner in which they accessed Wallace's radio channel. While series like Formula 1 use advanced encrypted radios, it bears noting that NASCAR radio gear is decidedly more low-tech. This allows fans to listen in to the analog transmissions using simple radio scanners using frequency lists published online.
Based on that, it's plausible that an off-the-shelf UHF radio could have allowed a bad actor to transmit on Bubba Wallace's channel for less than $50. Wallace himself may not have heard the transmission, though. In crowded radio environments like a racetrack, it's common to use a system like CTCSS that requires the transmitting radio to append a series of coded tones at the start of each transmission. Without those tones, Wallace's radio wouldn't have let the transmission through. The tones can be captured and spoofed, but this basic technique is enough to prevent most unsophisticated users from interfering with team transmissions.
The series continues to take a careful stance given the acrimonious sentiments often displayed towards Wallace on social media. Wallace is currently the only Black driver racing full-time in NASCAR's top series. He's also only the second Black driver to win a race, after Wendell Scott back in 1964. Wallace himself been outspoken against racism in the sport, too. He openly backed NASCAR's move to ban the Confederate flag from races, and parted ways with a helmet designer who came out in support of the racist symbol.
It's not the first time the series has had to look into similar issues, either. In 2020, a noose was found tied in Wallace's garage. An FBI investigation into the matter found the garage pull rope had been tied in a hangman's knot the previous year before the stall was ever assigned to Wallace. Despite this, the incident led to a flare-up of abuse directed towards Wallace at the time.
If incidents like the above occur at other races, NASCAR may look to lock down its radio systems. It would be a shame for fans who love to tune in from the stands, but there's no room for abuse—especially when drivers are circulating at hundreds of miles an hour.
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