Authorities have ruled out the possibility that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was targeted with a hate crime after an investigation determined the noose found in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway had been there since as early as last October.
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“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” NASCAR said in a statement. “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.”
The FBI began an immediate investigation earlier this week after NASCAR officials learned that a noose had been found in Wallace’s garage. The noose was discovered just days after Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series, successfully lobbied officials to ban the Confederate flag amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
Using surveillance footage authenticated by NASCAR and interviews with essential personnel, a team of 15 FBI investigators concluded the rope had been in the garage at Talladega since last fall. Authorities said “nobody could have known” Wallace would be assigned to that garage.
“After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed,” U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said in a joint statement on the investigation.
The noose was discovered by a member of Wallace's team and was initially thought to be a deliberate act. Wallace initially condemned the incident as a "despicable act of racism." During the investigation, NASCAR vowed swift action and warned that it would ban the perpetrator for life if the incident was found to be racially motivated.
The NASCAR community has rallied in support of Wallace since last weekend. In a show of solidarity on Monday, NASCAR drivers and crews marched together down pit road and pushed Wallace's No. 43 car to the start line at Talladega.
"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 added in response to the FBI's findings. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing."
In a follow-up press conference shortly after the FBI announced its findings, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the organization stood by its initial response to the incident, adding that Wallace’s team “had nothing to do with this.”
“I do want to make sure everyone understands that if given the evidence that we had was delivered to us on Saturday night or late Saturday 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.”
NASCAR is still investigating why the rope found in the garage was fastened into a noose, Phelps added.
This story has been updated.