(Information from AP, ESPN, NBC) NASCAR announced Tuesday that the FBI has determined that driver Bubba Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that a pull rope fashioned like a noose had been on a garage door at Talladega Superspeedway since as early as October.
“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 a 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.”
Before the announcement Tuesday, some had speculated on social media that the entire incident might be a hoax, but both Wallace and NASCAR President Steve Phelps pushed back on that narrative, with Wallace saying he was “angered” by people who would question his integrity, and Phelps stating during a teleconference that the #43 Richard Petty Motor Sports team had nothing to do with the incident.
Wallace told NBC News’ TODAY Show Wednesday morning, “I was relieved, just like many others, to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me, but it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try to debunk you.”
He added, “It was a rope pull for the garage door…but it was definitely in the shape of a noose. It wasn’t a functioning noose…The photo evidence that I’ve seen and that I have in my possession [shows] of what was in our garage is exactly a garage pull. It is. That is a noose.”
Pictures circulating on social media appear to show the garage door pull on Garage #4 in October of last year, and in the image it appears to be tied into a noose, or at the very least, a “noose-like knot.”
Phelps said NASCAR would continue its investigation as to why a rope was fashioned into a noose, regardless of when it was done.
A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports discovered the noose Sunday at the Alabama racetrack. NASCAR was alerted and contacted the FBI, which sent 15 agents to the track to investigate.
Wood Brothers Racing said one of its employees informed the team this week that he recalled “seeing a tied handle in the garage pull down rope from last fall,” when NASCAR raced at Talladega in October. The team said it immediately alerted NASCAR and assisted the investigation.
When it was first discovered and it appeared that a hate crime had been committed, NASCAR drivers and team members took part in an impressive display of unity before Monday’s make-up race at Talladega, pushing Wallace’s car down pit road and standing behind, and with, him during the National Anthem.
All three of NASCAR’s top national series will hit the Tricky Triangle at Pocono this weekend, starting with the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series “Pocono Organics 150 to Benefit Farm Aid” Saturday at noon. The first race of the Cup Series’ first-ever weekend doubleheader hits the airwaves Saturday at 2:30 pm with the “Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with the Rodale Institute.”
Sunday begins another double-dip with the Xfinity Series “Pocono Green 250 Recycled by JP Mascaro & Sons” at 12 noon from Pocono. The second race in the Cup doubleheader will be on the air at 3 pm with the “Pocono 350.”
All four races will be on WYSH and WQLA, and both Cup races will also be heard on 96.7 Merle.