STOKES COUNTY — Black protesters at 311 Speedway here were met with intimidation by AR 15-style-rifle toting staff and fans Saturday night, but ended the evening praying arm-in-arm, hearing the raceway’s owner apologize for his recent racist Facebook posts, a video shows.
When the Rev. Greg Drumwright and about 25 members of his Greensboro-based coalition, “Justice for the Next Generation,” arrived outside the raceway shortly after 7:30 p.m. Saturday, two men told Drumwright their lives were in danger.
“One was a Hispanic gentleman that greeted us to let us know that they were prepared to shoot at us,’’ said Drumwright, an activist who took his group to Talladega Superspeedway recently to support NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace as the Black driver dealt with the investigation of a noose door pull found in his assigned racetrack garage.
Video of the 311 protest shows one man at the gate, holding an AR 15-style rifle vertically and wearing a sidearm. Footage also shows at least two other white men standing with similar rifles on the far east side of the speedway parking lot and ducking behind parked tractor trailers.
Drumwright said those men periodically walked up behind protesters during the 90-minute demonstration, broadcast on Facebook Live, where participants held signs that read, “Take Your Knee Offa Our Necks’’ and “Black Lives Matter.’’
Another man trained a rifle on the group from a distance throughout the protest, according to the justice group’s videographer, said Drumwright, a pastor and communications professor at High Point University.
Several sheriff’s deputies patrolled the protest and monitored the raceway Saturday night, though it is not known whether the men had appropriate gun permits. (See correction at the bottom of this story.)
“Since that happened, my life has been threatened on Facebook by folks from that community,’’ said Drumwright, who added he is talking with NASCAR leadership about needed changes in the industry.
“We are calling for change around the racing industry,’’ Drumwright said. “There is an admitted culture ... in the racing community ... as if it’s cordoned off as a safe haven for white supremacists and racist white folks.’’
Stokes County Sheriff Mike Marshall did not return phone calls.
The group’s visit to 311 was in response to the actions of raceway owner Mike Fulp, 55, of Lawsonville. Last week Fulp advertised “Bubba Rope” for sale on his Facebook page amid the controversy surrounding NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s announcement that a noose had been found in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway. The ad has since been removed.
In the ad, Fulp, who owns the half-mile red dirt raceway which straddles the Rockingham County line, listed “Bubba Rope’’ for sale with a pitch: “Buy your Bubba Rope today for only $9.99 each, they come with a lifetime warranty and work great.’’
“I was trying to make a joke ... trying to make people laugh,’’ Fulp told Drumwright as the pair talked across the raceway’s chain link fence at dusk Saturday.
Drumwright, who offered to pray with Fulp, invited Fulp to explain his reasoning for making the “Bubba Rope’’ post.
“It wasn’t about Bubba,’’ Fulp said, tearful. “It was about trying to make people laugh ... But I didn’t think of what it was gonna do.’’
News of his post brought criticism last week from Gov. Roy Cooper and prompted all but two racing sponsors and vendors to pull their business from the Confederate-flag-bedecked track, touted as the “Daytona of Dirt.’’ Black leaders and white race fans alike condemned the posts and chided Fulp online and in the press.
Wallace, NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver, learned last week through an FBI investigation that a door pull fashioned as a noose had been in place at the Alabama raceway since at least October.
Fulp cried as he spoke to Drumwright in the video, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry. I don’t want nobody hurt, man, I don’t want nobody hurt ... People threatened me, to kill me,’’ he said of callers, many of whom he said were white.
“I’m a Republican, OK,’’ Fulp told Drumwright. “You’ve got your values; I’ve got my values ... I do not want nobody hurt, man ... anybody to lose their life cause of something stupid. You know, I love my people of color. I love my people, your people, my people, every people.’’
“Let’s pray for you because you’re hurtin’’’ Drumwright said, before meeting Fulp outside 311’s gates, where Fulp asked to shake hands with each protester, embracing one young man and crying.
But Drumwright said many people are skeptical about Fulp’s sincerity.
“I find it (Fulp’s apology) very convenient after they’ve lost all of their sponsors and all of their drivers,’’ Drumwright said. “I’m wondering, why now? But as a minister, it is not my place to make judgement about people’s sincerity. When people ask for forgiveness ... their next step is to turn to the ways you are repenting from. So what we would be looking for from Mike extends beyond an apology. It goes into a real change.’’
Fulp, who made a recent failed bid as a Republican for a Stokes County Board of Commissioners seat, could not be reached for comment. Two phone numbers associated with his name were not in service Wednesday night. He also owns Hillside Dan River Tubing in Walnut Cove.
BubbaRope is the registered trademark name of a synthetic towing rope made in Florida. The company's president said he has no affiliation with Fulp and has never sold him the product.