By: Ashley McCubbin
On Thursday, NASCAR announced they have completed their investigation into the noose found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage, while releasing an image of what was found to spark the conversation.
The photography, featured at the top of this article, was released by the sanctioning body, clearly depicting a noose hanging from the garage door.
Last Sunday night, NASCAR released a statement that they, alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were launching an investigation into possible hate crime after a noose found by a Richard Petty Motorsports crew member in Wallace’s stall at the speedway. The investigation conclusions were revealed on Tuesday afternoon by the FBI that there was no hate crime committed, and the noose had been in the garage stall since at least last October.
Following the completion of the FBI investigation, NASCAR President Steve Phelps released a quick statement to the media, but wanted to hold off diving deeper until the sanctioning body had completed their own investigation. The reasoning behind that was they wanted to be certain to have exhausted all avenues.
Phelps stated they were made aware of the noose by a crew member on Wallace’s No. 43 pit crew of the noose’s presence on Sunday afternoon. They then did a full sweep of the garage area by their security team, with only the rope in stall No. 4 being in the shape of a noose, as the others were regular ropes.
The decision was then made following a NASCAR senior leadership meeting the instance needed to be instigated furthered, with Phelps notifying Wallace in the following hour of their findings. It was then later that night a statement was released to the public.
The next morning on Monday, FBI Birmingham reached out to the sanctioning body, with 15 field agents arriving in the garage to begin their investigation.
“We provided the FBI with a list of personnel with access to the garage, as well as video and images taken from the weekend and the 2019 fall weekend as well,” Phelps explained. “During the course of the day the FBI interviewed race team personnel from multiple teams, NASCAR officials, track fire and safety personnel and track custodial staff. Talladega Superspeedway also provided the FBI with a list of events that had taken place since October of 2019, which is when the new garages opened.
“The FBI reports back at the end of the day that their interviews are complete for the day and the evidence so far or thus far at that point was inconclusive, with plans to continue their investigation the following morning.”
It was then on Tuesday morning that an additional video was provided by NASCAR by a team, and forwarded to an FBI, which determined the findings the noose was there during the fall Talladega event. However, the sanctioning body decided to look further into why it had appeared in the garage area to begin with.
“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 explained. “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?
“So let me talk about the last one first. NASCAR conducted a thorough sweep of all the garage areas across the tracks that we race. So across those 29 tracks and 1,684 garage stalls, we found only 11 total that had a pull-down rope tied in a knot. And only one noose: The one discovered on Sunday in Bubba Wallace’s garage.
“We further determined that the noose was not in place when the October 2019 race weekend began but was created at some point during that weekend. Given that timing and the garage access policies and procedures at the time, we were unfortunately unable to determine with any certainty who tied this rope in this manner or why it was done.”
Despite finding there was no hate crime in relation to the noose, Phelps restated that they would have “pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose” given the initial facts presented to them.
“Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver,” he commented. “We’re living in a highly charged and emotional time. What we saw was a symbol of hate and was only present in one area of the garage, that of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace. In hindsight, we should have, I should have used the word “alleged” in our statement.”
“Many of you have seen the photo. As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba. 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.”
NASCAR also stated moving forward, they will be conducting regular sweeps of the garage area to ensure “nothing like this happens again,” while installing additional cameras for security purposes.
“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,” he added. “Going forward, our efforts are best spent on making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome. I would also like to reinforce that we did see at Talladega in pre-race on Monday our drivers, crews and officials proudly demonstrated that we are united in the belief that there is no place for racism in our sport.”
In the days since, many have directed comments towards Wallace in regards to the noose situation. Phelps once again backs the driver of the No. 43 in stating he did nothing wrong, and has represented “this sport with courage, class, and dignity.”
“It is offensive seeing anyone suggest otherwise, and frankly it’s further evidence as to how far we still need to go as a society,” he commented. “Secondly there’s been discussion and criticism on how this was handled and characterized. Some feel that the phrasing or words used were not right. That comes with the territory, and I will take full responsibility for that and for the emotion that was attached to it. Based on the evidence we had, we thought our drivers — that one of our drivers had been threatened, a driver who had been extremely courageous in recent words and actions. It’s our responsibility to react and investigate, and that’s exactly what we did.”