UPDATE: FBI says noose found in garage stall was there since October 2019; Bubba Wallace issues statement
The Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime and that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose discovered in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega had been there as early as October 2019 – well prior to the Talladega Superspeedway race weekend.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 23, 2020
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week,” the FBI said in a statement. “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.”
On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET, Wallace tweeted a statement.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020
“It’s been an emotional few days. 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 what the alternatives could have been.”
The FBI, which sent 15 agents to the track Monday, stated no federal crime had occurred and that no one could have known last year what stall the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team would work in for the 2020 race.
“The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall,” NASCAR added in a statement.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 23, 2020
“This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment. We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba.”
Wallace, speaking Tuesday night on CNN, said he has never seen a garage pull rope in that shape and that his crew chief, Jerry Baxter, told him it was not something that could be confused with a regular knot in a rope in the garage.
“The image that I have and I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull,” says NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace.
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) June 24, 2020
NASCAR President Steve Phelps previously said on Monday that a Richard Petty Motorsports crew member saw the noose when he went to the garage stall Sunday afternoon. During a teleconference on Tuesday, Phelps insisted that the 43 team had nothing to do with the incident and that NASCAR is still investigating.
"The No. 43 team had nothing to do with this." NASCAR President Steve Phelps with more details on the results of the FBI's investigation from Talladega. pic.twitter.com/msk3iGjVul
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 23, 2020
Phelps also said Tuesday night NASCAR is still investigating how the garage pull rope was made to look like a noose. NASCAR checked every other garage stall and none had been shaped like a noose.
Went back and took a look at my camera roll on my phone and screenshot this from video … rope on the left: pic.twitter.com/Od1Z4aKaxi
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 23, 2020
“The last race we had had there in October, that noose was present, and the fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact,” Phelps said. “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.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, Richard Petty Motorsports released its own statement.
— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) June 23, 2020
Phelps said he felt calling the FBI was justified.
“To be clear, we would do this again,” he said. “Of the evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this.”
Teams don’t work in the garage much during the current COVID-19 race day format where they roll off the truck, go through tech and push the car to the grid. They only spend significant time in a garage stall if they fail tech or need to fix something during the race.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 23, 2020
Wood Brothers Racing had that garage stall last October.
“One of our employees alerted us yesterday morning that, without knowing the details of the incident, he recalled seeing a tied handle in the garage pull-down rope from last fall,” Wood Brothers Racing said in a statement.
“We immediately alerted NASCAR and have assisted the investigation in every way possible.”
STATEMENT ON THE COINCIDENCE OF OUR STALL FROM 2019 AND THE INVESTIGATION pic.twitter.com/SJgKus8o8T
— Wood Brothers Racing (@woodbrothers21) June 23, 2020
After the FBI’s investigation was concluded, the NASCAR world and the sports world expressed relief and their continued support for Wallace via social media, including his crew member, Freddie Kraft.
Relieved to know this was a huge misunderstanding, and there is no one in our garage area that did something like what most people originally thought happened. Doesn’t change a thing about the amazing sights we saw yesterday. Hopefully we continue to move forward from here.
— Freddie Kraft (@FreddieKraft) June 23, 2020
I’m relieved to hear this wasn’t a hate crime and I’m still so proud of how our sport came together yesterday. https://t.co/I2KzARnonx
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) June 24, 2020
Finally some good news pic.twitter.com/kbv2i5ksPN
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) June 23, 2020
The best news possible came from the FBI investigation, and I am so happy for @BubbaWallace & @NASCAR that there was no hate crime, or any ill will.
That is wonderful.
Sunday & Monday I defended the sport passionately that it is not a racist arena.
I'm glad that proved accurate.
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) June 23, 2020
Man I absolutely hate what happened with @nascar. Doesn’t change the fact that @BubbaWallace :
-didn’t ask for this attention
-handled all of it with class and dignity
-will now receive totally unjustified hate thrown his way
-needs love and support more than ever
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) June 23, 2020
I was relieved when the latest news broke, like many of you. A.) No individual was blamed B.) @BubbaWallace did not discover this. Don’t think about blaming him C.) If you were in the media and got that NASCAR release 48 hours ago — would you not report it?
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) June 23, 2020
Here’s a timeline of recent events involving Wallace and NASCAR.
June 1: Wallace and NASCAR pledged to advocate for change when it comes to racism and racial inequality.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 1, 2020
June 7: At Atlanta Motor Speedway, Wallace wore a shirt that said “I Can’t Breathe,” a NASCAR official took a knee during the national anthem, and several drivers contributed to a video put together by Wallace and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson stating that they would advocate for change.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 7, 2020
There was also a moment of silence prior to the start of the race followed by NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressing the teams about NASCAR’s commitment for change.
A moment of silence and a message from NASCAR President Steve Phelps and drivers. pic.twitter.com/jy1U48qeLX
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 7, 2020
June 8: A day after Atlanta, Wallace appeared on CNN and called for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag.
Bubba Wallace on CNN Monday night
“My next step would be getting rid of all Confederate flags” at NASCAR events pic.twitter.com/3c76cl4h1T
— Alan Cavanna (@AlanCavanna) June 9, 2020
June 10: NASCAR banned the Confederate flag:
“The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 10, 2020
That same day at Martinsville, Wallace ran a “Black Lives Matter” paint scheme in what he called the “biggest race” of his career.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 10, 2020
June 21: Protesters with Confederate flags were outside, off of track property, and a plane flew by the track with the Confederate flag and the message “Defund NASCAR” prior to Sunday’s scheduled race.
The race was postponed to Monday because of rain, before NASCAR released a statement at approximately 10:45 p.m. ET about the discovery of the noose.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 22, 2020
Wallace tweeted a statement just before 11 p.m. ET.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 22, 2020
June 22: With the NASCAR community still believing the act was intentionally aimed at Wallace, drivers, crew members, and the entire garage gathered around the No. 43 30 minutes before Monday’s Geico 500.
At 2:45 p.m., they pushed the vehicle to the front of the starting grid. The video of the emotional moment quickly became the most-viewed tweet in FOX Sports history.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 22, 2020
Wallace moved into the lead with 28 laps to go before finishing 14th, as he faced fuel issues down the stretch. In fact, Wallace ran out of fuel during the final caution of regulation, receiving a push from Corey LaJoie to make it to the pits and complete the race.
.@BubbaWallace gets a late race push from @CoreyLaJoie after running out of fuel during a late race caution during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. #NASCAR https://t.co/04zgXWsxpH pic.twitter.com/8Es7TCAHAV
— Daylon Barr (@BarrVisuals) June 23, 2020
June 23: At 5:15 p.m. ET, the FBI issued its statement about the garage door pull rope that had been fashioned into a noose.
This is a developing story.