The FBI declared that no hate crime was committed against Bubba Wallace in the Talladega garage. NASCAR will continue its own investigation.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has declared that NASCAR Cup Series drivers Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime during the circuit’s weekend proceedings at Talladega Superspeedway.
NASCAR previously announced that a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall after the GEICO 500 event was postponed due to inclement weather. Wallace is the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s premier series and is the driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. A crew member found the noose in the stall and reported it to NASCAR.
The FBI investigation concluded that the alleged noose was a garage door pull rope that was fashioned in a noose-like knot. Photographic evidence revealed that the rope was there when Paul Menard’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford team occupied the stall during last October’s Cup Series race at Talladega.
“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” a Tuesday statement from NASCAR reads. “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.”
With Sunday’s race postponed to Monday afternoon, drivers rose up in support of Wallace. Prior to the invocation and national anthem, they pushed his No. 43 Chevrolet to the front of the field. Wallace has previously spoken in support of the national protests and demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality against African-Americans. He was also one of many drivers who advocated for a ban against spectators brandishing Confederate flag imagery, which NASCAR enacted earlier this month.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps briefly addressed the media in a conference call after the statement’s release but did not take questions. He revealed that while the federal investigation has concluded, NASCAR would continue its own inquiry into the incident.
“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” Phelps said. “It was 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 further clarified that neither Wallace nor his team should be blamed for the outcome of the investigation. In another conference call held hours before Monday’s race, Phelps revealed that he was the one who informed Wallace of the situation.
“I want to be clear about the 43 team. The 43 team had nothing to do with this,” he 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 had there in October, that noose was present, and it was. The fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact. We had not been back to the garage. It was a quick one-day show. The crew member went back in there. He looked and saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR series director Jay Fabian, and we launched this investigation.”
“To be clear, we would do this again. Of the evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this.”
Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports have not yet commented on the developments. This marks his third year driving the No. 43 Chevrolet on a full-time basis. The 26-year-old has earned 12 wins in NASCAR’s lower-tier national series (the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series) and currently sits in 21st place in the Cup Series standings. He finished 14th on Monday afternoon.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags