In a relieving turn of events, the supposed noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage prior to the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway this past Sunday has turned out to be a big misunderstanding, the FBI concluded.
NASCAR and the FBI teamed up for an investigation to see if Wallace, the only full-time African-American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, was indeed not the victim of a hate crime.
The noose was found by a crew member of the Richard Petty Motorsports #43 team, and NASCAR was immediately informed and the FBI sent 15 agents to the Alabama racetrack to investigate.
What was reported to be a noose was actually a garage pull rope fashioned in a noose that had been there much longer than before Sunday when it was discovered.
“The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall,” NASCAR said in its statement.
“This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment.
“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said their investigation determined that “although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in a teleconference Tuesday that he is relieved that there was no foul play in this incident.
“For us in NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” he said.
“This is … disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI, definitively, that there was not a hate crime.”
Phelps also added that NASCAR will continue to investigate why the noose was there in the first place, even though this case has been closed.
“I do want to make sure everyone understands that, if given the evidence that we had was delivered to us on late Saturday afternoon, we would do the same thing,” Phelps said.
“We would have done the same investigation. It was important for us to do. There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It’s not part of who we are as a sport.”
Phelps also went on to clear the team, who have faced allegations of staging the event on social media.
“I want to be clear about the 43 team: The 43 team had nothing to do with this,” Phelps said.
“The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously. The last race we had there in October, that noose was present.”
Wallace has been a cavalier in the Black Lives Matter movement, and has campaigned for NASCAR to remove the Confederate flag from their events, which they have. He continues to bravely fight for racial equality across the sport.