The FBI concludes that rope found in Wallace’s garage was accidental

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace takes a selfie with himself and other drivers who pushed his car to the front of pit road of the Talladega Superspeedway prior to the start of Monday's Cup Series race.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

NASCAR stuck with its decision to warn federal authorities of a rope resembling a noose in Bubba Wallace’s garage box in Talladega Superspeedway, even after the investigation found it had been there since October last year.

U.S. attorney Jay Town and special FBI agent Johnnie Sharp Jr. said on Tuesday that an investigation found that “no one could have known that Mr. Wallace would be assigned” to the same stall. NASCAR said it was the only garage box with a drawstring that looked like a noose.

Wallace is NASCAR’s only black top-level driver and has become a leading activist in the sport in pursuit of racial equality. He wore an ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirt, had a Black Lives Matter color scheme, and successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Southern flag.

Using his new voice, the 26-year-old said he was threatened with death and that NASCAR had assigned him track security.

It caused heightened sensitivity and a possible overreaction when a crew member from Richard Petty Motorsports reported that a noose had been found sometime after Sunday’s race was delayed by rain. NASCAR said it was “angry and outraged” at the “horrific act” that the series was directly related to racism.

The FBI sent 15 agents to Talladega for Monday’s rescheduled race as the industry gathered around Wallace. In an unprecedented solidarity show, each team member stood on the pit lane behind him during the national anthem.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps asked exactly nine questions about the finding in Wallace’s garage, and none of them provided details about the incident. Due to limitations in the health protocol, a limited number of employees have access to the garage. Drivers, including Wallace, have never seen the rope.

About 48 hours after the discovery, federal authorities said video confirmed that the rope “was already in that garage in October 2019” that was hanging from a garage door. The rope was called a sling, but can be used as a handle when closing the door.

Phelps continued to call it a noose after authorities said no charges would be brought, insisting NASCAR is investigating why the rope was tied that way. He was glad it wasn’t a hate crime directed against Wallace, but insisted that NASCAR conducted the investigation the same way, even now that he knew it was a coincidence.

“We would have done the same research. It was important for us to do, “he said.

“The evidence was very clear that the noose in the garage had been there before. The last race we had in October, that noose was present. The evidence we had was clear that we had to investigate this. ‘

He asked no questions about the FBI’s findings.

Meanwhile, the Wood Brothers Racing team said it had cooperated with the investigation, and an employee told the team he recalled seeing “a strapped handle in the garage pulling the rope down last fall,” when the team had storage.

NASCAR said it had found a noose that amazed the stock car series for taking an active position in a pursuit of shooting while taking its distance from its rocky racing history. The series first tried to ban the Southern flag five years ago, but did nothing to enforce the order.

Wallace renewed the call for a ban two weeks ago and NASCAR replied, but it has not yet detailed how it will stop the display. Talladega marked the first race since the coronavirus pandemic that allowed fans – 5,000 were allowed to buy tickets – and some were angry at the flag ban parading past the main entrance with the southern symbol. A banner flew over the speedway Sunday of a Southern flag saying “Defund NASCAR”.