NASCAR President Steve Phelps held a teleconference on Thursday to discuss details of the FBI and NASCAR investigations into a noose discovered in the garage stall used by the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports team of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., the only African-American driver currently competing in a NASCAR national series, at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
A photo of the noose also was released by NASCAR on Thursday.
“As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba,” Phelps said. “With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family, our NASCAR family, because they are part of the NASCAR family too. We are proud to see so many stand up for what’s right.”
The FBI concluded its investigation earlier in the week and concluded that a hate crime had not been committed against Wallace, as the noose, tied at the bottom of a garage door pull-down rope was in place at least since Oct. 2019.
“It’s been an emotional few days,” a statement from Wallace read. “First off, I want to say how relieved I am that the investigation revealed that this wasn’t what we feared it was. I want to thank my team, NASCAR and the FBI for acting swiftly and treating this as a real threat. I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over that the alternatives could have been. 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.”
NASCAR, though, continued its investigation with an intent to determine specifically who tied the noose, when it was tied and why. That investigation included the inspection of 1684 garage stalls across all NASCAR tracks. Loops were discovered at the end of 11 pull-down ropes. The only one tied in the style of a noose was the one reported to NASCAR at Talladega.
“Through the investigation, the examination of the video and photographic evidence, the FBI was able to determine the noose was present in the same garage stall as last fall,” Phelps said. “It was still our responsibility to find answers to key questions as we had talked about on Tuesday. How did the noose get there? Was anyone an intended target? Was this a code-of-conduct violation? Are nooses present elsewhere in other garages where we race?”
Wallace did not see the noose. It was reported by a member of his race team, who also is an African-American.
NASCAR’s investigation also produced the conclusion that the rope was tied at some point during the October 2019 race weekend at Talladega. But no determination was made regarding the identity of the individual who tied it or his/her motivation to tie it in the fashion it was tied.
The #21 Wood Brothers Racing team, which then had Paul Menard as its driver, used the garage stall during the October 2019 race weekend. According to Phelps, discussions were held with members of that race team.
“Moving forward, we’ll be conducting thorough sweeps of the garage area to ensure nothing like this happens again, and we are installing additional cameras in all of our garages,” Phelps said. “We’ll make any changes necessary to our sanctions and our code of conduct, and we will mandate that all members of our industry complete sensitivity and unconscious bias training with specifics and timing forthcoming.”