NASCAR's Bubba Wallace was not target of hate crime, FBI finds

The noose found in his garage had been there for some time, officials say.

June 23, 2020, 10:15 PM

The FBI has completed its investigation into a noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this week and is not filing any federal charges, the organization announced Tuesday.

According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, the noose had been in the garage since as early as last fall.

Wallace, the league's only full-time Black driver, "was not the target of a hate crime," NASCAR said in a statement.

The FBI investigation concluded through video and photographic evidence that a garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned in that garage number 4 since at least October 2019, and thus was not directed at Wallace.

"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," Town and Sharp's statement said.

In a press call with media on Tuesday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said this was "fantastic" news.

"There is no place in our sport for this type of racism and hatred," Phelps said. "It's not who we are as a sport."

PHOTO: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, and team owner, and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty stand for the national anthem prior to the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020.
Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, and team owner, and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty stand for the national anthem prior to the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Phelps said that NASCAR will be continuing its own investigation to determine "why there was a rope fashioned into a noose." He said the noose was present in the garage during a race in October. On Sunday, a member of Wallace's crew found and reported it to his crew chief, who then brought it to the attention of NASCAR Cup Series Director Jay Fabian, he said.

"To be clear, we would do this again," Phelps said. "The evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this."

In a statement on Tuesday, team owner Richard Petty Motorsports said team members were "acting in accordance with established protocols" after they discovered a "rope tied in the fashion of a noose" in the garage stall.

"No member of Richard Petty Motorsports, nor Wallace had any involvement with the presence of the rope," the statement said.

Phelps said the show of support around Wallace at Monday's race was a "very powerful image" and "one of the most important days that we had."

Before the race, all 39 other drivers and their crews marched down pit road as Wallace's car was pushed to the front of the field. The words #IStandWithBubba also were seen stenciled on the grass near the racetrack's pit row.

"These times kind of bring back that positive light of love and passion and solidarity and unity, to unite together and show that love is way stronger than hate," Wallace said on ABC's "The View" Tuesday.

Freddie Kraft, a member of Wallace's racing team, said on Twitter Monday that he was "relieved to know this was a huge misunderstanding."

"Doesn’t change a thing about the amazing sights we saw yesterday. Hopefully we continue to move forward from here," he said.

On Sunday, NASCAR had said it was launching an investigation after a noose was found in the garage stall of Wallace's 43 team at the Lincoln, Alabama, racetrack.

On Monday, the Department of Justice announced its Civil Rights Division was also investigating to determine if any federal laws were violated.

Wallace has been a leading voice in the sport amid calls for justice following George Floyd's death last month at the hands of Minneapolis police. After he pushed for NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag, NASCAR announced earlier this month that it was banning the presence of the controversial flag at all events. Wallace has also raced with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his car.

ABC News' Joshua Hoyos and Matthew Stone contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Wednesday, June 24, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

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