NASCAR has confirmed this photo of the garage pull-down rope in the formation of a noose that was hanging Sunday in the Bubba Wallace garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway.
A Richard Petty Motorsports crewman found the noose and notified Wallace crew chief Jerry Baxter, who took a photo of the noose before it was cut down.
NASCAR called the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday, and 15 agents went to the track to talk to crew members prior to the race, which had been postponed from Sunday because of rain. The FBI announced Tuesday that the investigation determined the noose was in the stall as early as October 2019.
A snapshot from a video I took Oct. 14 of that garage stall shows the presence of the rope.
Wallace is the only Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, and concerns over his safety have increased in the last three weeks as he advocated for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. NASCAR announced the ban June 10.
After the FBI’s announcement, Wallace tweeted a statement.
The new Cup garage at Talladega Superspeedway was built in 2019. NASCAR has said that other garage pull ropes it examined Sunday night were not tied in that formation.
“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 said in a statement Tuesday.
“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."
NASCAR President Steve Phelps, who said NASCAR would still investigate why the garage pull rope was tied like a noose, was scheduled to address media early Thursday afternoon.
Phelps said Tuesday 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.
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.
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.”