A noose was found in the garage stall of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, on Sunday, the racing giant announced.
NASCAR said in a statement it is investigating the incident.
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport.
“As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”
Updated June 23 at 6:o4 p.m. EST: The FBI released a statement that the noose, which according to a NASCAR source was indeed a noose used as a door hold, and had been in Wallace’s garage stall back as far back as the fall and therefore was not a hate crime against Wallace.
“On Monday, fifteen FBI special agents conducted numerous interviews regarding the situation at Talladega Superspeedway. After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding the event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed,” read the statement.
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019. 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.
“The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws. We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.”
As to the question of who did it, NASCAR likely won’t need to go very far, as the noose was found in a secure area where access is only made available to race team members, NASCAR officials, track workers, as well as, security, medical and safety personnel, according to a source. Garage stalls are off limits to the public.
“We’re not working under any assumptions just yet,” said the source.
Cameras are stationed throughout the garage, though not in every stall. The source confirmed NASCAR officials are reviewing all videos.
According to the source, NASCAR is working with law enforcement as the placing of a noose would likely be considered a criminal hate crime in Alabama.
Update: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey released a statement condemning what she called a “display of hatred.”
“I am shocked and appalled to hear of yesterday’s vile act against Bubba Wallace in Talladega,” read the statement. “There is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state. Racism and threats of this nature will not be condoned nor tolerated, and I commit to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished.”
Wallace, the only Black driver on the top circuit who is not shy about expressing his feelings about NASCAR’s race problems, took to Twitter to denounce the horrific act.
“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace wrote on Twitter. “Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry, including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone.
“Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate. As my mother told me today, ‘they are just trying to scare you.’ This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
Update: Several prominent members of the sports community took to Twitter in support of Wallace, including LeBron James who called the discovery of the noose “sickening!” and that Wallace was not alone.
And NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tweeted his hopes Wallace wins at Talladega Monday, after Sunday’s race was postponed due to rain.
ESPN’s Marty Smith reported that NASCAR legend Richard Petty, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, for whom Wallace drives, will attend the race at Talladega today to show his support for Wallace.
NASCAR made headlines across the country last week after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis when it announced a ban of the Confederate flag at racing events, something Wallace had came out for in an interview on CNN. Wallace then decorated his No. 43 car with Black Lives Matter on the side.
Following the news of the Confederate flag ban, perennial NASCAR loser Ray Ciccarelli, an owner and truck series driver, announced he was leaving the sport.
Others not happy with NASCAR’s decision to ban the flag took to the streets and air Sunday, as a convoy of cars and pickup trucks had flags flying on them outside the track and a plane flew a giant Confederate flag overhead with the words “Defund NASCAR” trailing it.