NASCAR on Thursday released a photo of the noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage Sunday and said it was “real.”
The photo’s release comes two days after the FBI concluded that Wallace, the only African American driver in NASCAR’s top series, was not a victim of a hate crime as the “garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose” had been positioned there since as early as last fall.
“This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment,” NASCAR said in its own statement Tuesday, referring to the number of Wallace’s car. “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.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Thursday,”As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba.”
In a teleconference with reporters, Phelps said, “Based on all the video and photographic evidence and all the interviews, we were not able to determine who crafted the noose.”
He added: “I know that’s unfulfilling. I wish there was more we could do but we can’t, so we’ve drawn this matter to a close.”
Phelps said upon learning of and seeing the noose, NASCAR’s initial reaction “was to protect our driver.
Phelps said that after the discovery Sunday of the noose in the garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, officials asked every racetrack to walk through their respective garages.
Out of the 1,684 garage stalls at 29 tracks, only 11 had a pull-down rope tied in a knot. The only one fashioned in a noose was the one discovered Sunday, Phelps said.
“What we saw was a symbol of hate and was only present in one area of the garage and that was of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace,” he said Thursday.
The FBI investigation determined that the noose had been in Cup Series garage stall No. 4 — which had been assigned to the Petty No. 43 team last weekend — since at least last October and that no federal charges would be pursued, Phelps said.
He said that Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with it.
“Bubba Wallace has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity,” Phelps said. “It is offensive seeing anyone suggest otherwise and frankly, it is further evidence of how far we still need to go as a society.”
Phelps outlined steps NASCAR would take going forward, such as sensitivity and unconscious bias training for all members of the industry, thorough sweeps through the garage areas and installation of more cameras in all garages.
“Our ultimate conclusion for this investigation is to ensure that this never happens again, that no one walks by a noose without recognizing the potential damage it can do,” Phelps said. “Going forward, our efforts are best spent on making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome.”
The day after the FBI released its findings, Wallace said on the “TODAY” show that he was relieved but frustrated by the reaction to the investigation’s conclusions.
“I was relieved just like many others to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me,” Wallace said on the show Wednesday. “But it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try and debunk you and that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now.”
He said that some people were wrongly suggesting that he was the person who found and reported the noose, when in fact that was not the case. He also emphasized that the rope was fashioned like a noose. The image of it “makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” he said.
Wallace has said that the noose was first reported to him by the NASCAR president.
The noose was found less than two weeks after NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races and properties on June 10, saying it was “contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”
Wallace had called for the policy change. He drove a car with a Black Lives Matter message in the race after the ban.