NASCAR said Tuesday what looked like a noose that was found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace, was a garage door pull rope and had been there since the fall, according to an FBI report.
Wallace was not the target of a hate crime, an FBI report indicated.
On Thursday, NASCAR released a photo of the noose found Sunday in Wallace’s garage stall.
“Many of you have seen the photo,” Phelps said. “As you can see from the photo, the noose was real as was our concern for Bubba.”
Immediately following the release of the photo, Phelps addressed the media on a conference call to say they completed their investigation.
NASCAR did a sweep all 29 tracks, 1,648 garage stall and found 11 ropes that had a pull-down rope tied in a knot. Only one was a noose. Phelps said during their investigation and despite extensive conversations with race teams and personnel, (specifically asked about Wood Brothers who were in that stall October 2019), they were unable to determine who fashioned the rope that way as well as the intent.
“We were unfortunately unable to determine with any certainty who tied the rope in this manner or why it was done,” Phelps said.
Phelps expressed disappointment that the rope tied in that manner would go unnoticed from October 2019 until June.
“Moving forward, we will be conducting thorough sweeps of the garage area to ensure nothing like this happens again,” Phelps said. “And we’re installing additional cameras in all of our garages.”
Phelps thanked Wallace for his leadership.
“I want to thank Bubba Wallace and everyone at Richard Petty Motor Sports,” Phelps said. “Specifically, thank Bubba for his leadership over these past three weeks. Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity. And he stood tall for what he believes in. And we all need to stand with him. I know I’m going to.”
The rope fashioned like a noose was there before the team’s arrival, the FBI report said. The investigation included photographic evidence from last fall.
“We’ve had a lot of garages growing up, racing out of that,” Wallace said. “We simply had a tiny knot at the bottom of it to pull. But yes, it was in fact a noose.”
For that reason, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Wednesday they’re continuing their investigation.
“We’re continuing our portion of the investigation to try to determine why there was a rope fashioned into a noose, which obviously happened sometime last October or before,” Phelps said Wednesday. “And we’ll do that and when we have further information, we’ll get back to the media.”
Wallace tweeted his relief and gratitude toward NASCAR, his team and the FBI.
“Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all,” he tweeted.
“You’re always gonna be tested each and every day,” Wallace said. “Nobody has walked in my shoes and nobody will ever be able to walk in my shoes, so I will continue to walk with a lot of pride and stay true to that path.”
“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” NASCAR said in a statement Tuesday. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
Wallace is NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver. Wallace two weeks ago successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its venues.
Because of COVID-19 precautions, there is limited access to the garage stalls and there are a lot of cameras. Investigators said those two elements are helped the process.
Before the rain-delayed race, every driver and their crews joined Wallace in a show of solidarity. In addition, the words “I Stand with Bubba” were painted in the grass near the track.
Wallace finished 14th and after getting out of his car, he immediately went to greet fans. He said it’s been a tough week, but that won’t keep him down.
“Sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I just wanted to show whoever it was you’re not going to take away my smile,” Wallace said.
Wallace also took a second to acknowledge the pre-race gesture from his fellow drivers.
“All in all, we won today,” Wallace said. “The pre-race deal was one of the hardest things I had to witness in my life. From all the supporters and drivers and crew members and everybody here.”