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Investigators: No federal charges after noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage stall was there in fall of 2019

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama said Tuesday that no federal charges would be filed after a noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega on Sunday.

A statement from U.S. Attorney Jay Town and the FBI’s Johnny Sharp said that the noose had been in the garage stall since the fall of 2019. Wallace was assigned that garage stall at Talladega earlier in the week. Garage stall assignments are typically done via points standings after the previous race event.

The noose was found Sunday by a team member of Wallace’s. Wallace did not see the noose and only knew it existed when he was informed by NASCAR president Steve Phelps later that afternoon.

“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.

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.”

Wallace is the only Black driver racing full-time in NASCAR. He’s been outspoken against social and racial inequality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. He drove a Black Lives Matter car on June 10, the same day NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its track properties.

Monday’s rain-delayed race was the first Cup Series race in the state of Alabama since the ban. Drivers walked Wallace’s car down pit road ahead of the race and nearly every team member from opposing teams stood behind him for a picture and the national anthem ahead of the race in a show of support as the placement of the noose was investigated.

The Wood Brothers Racing team said in a statement that they had the garage stall in the fall. Per the team, an employee remembered seeing a rope tied into a noose in October.

“We are thankful that there was no one involved in perpetrating hate during this weekend’s race,” the statement reads. “Just like the rest of the NASCAR garage, we were shocked and appalled to learn of the existence of the rope fashioned like a noose. 

“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. We immediately alerted NASCAR and have assisted the investigation in every way possible.

“What transpired over the past day plus is a unity that has only served to strengthen the bonds between each and every crew member, fan and non-fan alike. The Wood Brothers organization is proud to stand with Bubba Wallace as we work to make every race fan a part of our NASCAR family.

The October race at Talladega was the first Cup Series race weekend with the track’s newly-built garages.

NASCAR said it was thankful that there was no intentional act committed against Wallace.

“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” the statement reads. “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.

“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. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”

Richard Petty Motorsports said it was thankful for the swift and thorough investigation.

“On Sunday, June 21, members of Richard Petty Motorsports discovered a rope tied in the fashion of a noose in the garage stall assigned to the team at the Talladega Superspeedway. In accordance with established protocols, our team member notified the crew chief who notified NASCAR of the presence of the item in the garage stall. NASCAR leadership determined the course of action going forward with an immediate investigation into the item and its possible origins. In the early stages of the investigation, NASCAR’s Steve Phelps notified Bubba Wallace of the information gathered and the presence of the item int he garage stall of his team.

Richard Petty Motorsports fully cooperated with NASCAR and authorities as they conducted an investigation into the situation. As a result of further investigation by the FBI, it was found that the item was not directed towards Wallace or members of the team. No member of RPM nor Wallace had any involvement with the presence of the rope. 

We are thankful for the swift and thorough investigation by NASCAR and all of the authorities involved. We are also appreciative of the support from NASCAR, the motorsports industry and our fans.”

NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in a phone call with reporters Tuesday evening that the sanctioning body was still investigating why the rope was tied into a noose in October. Phelps did not take questions from reporters and said NASCAR would do so at the conclusion of its investigation.

He did say that NASCAR did not have any regrets about handling the incident the way that it did. He referenced the rope as a “noose” on five separate occasions in his roughly five-minute remarks. He also noted that there were no other garage stalls at Talladega that had ropes tied into nooses.

“I do want to make sure everyone understands that if given the evidence that we had was delivered to us on [Sunday] night or late [Sunday] afternoon, we would do the same thing,” Phelps said. “We would have done the same investigation. It was important for us to do. There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It's not part of who we are as a sport.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that our portion of this with the FBI was something that was ‑‑ we were very cooperative, as you would expect. We provided them with roster information, photographic and video evidence that aided them in their conclusions.”

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