An FBI probe into a noose found in the garage of NASCAR’s only black driver has ended on a surprising note.
The FBI has declared the noose found hanging in Bubba Wallace’s garage at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama was actually a rope garage door pull that had been there since 2019 – and that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime, as first thought.
In a statement on Tuesday (local time), NASCAR – which had condemned the discovery as “a heinous act” – said the FBI had determined that the rope door pull had been in the team garage for months.
“Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” it said.
“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.”
The FBI said the garage where the noose was found was assigned to Wallace only last week. But the noose had been there since at least October 2019.
“Although the noose is now known to have been in garage No.4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr Wallace would be assigned to garage No.4 last week,” it said.
Wallace was outraged by the garage discovery, describing it as a “despicable act of racism and hatred [that] leaves me incredibly saddened”.
“This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in,” he wrote on Twitter.
On Monday – just a day before the FBI’s ruling – Wallace had been brought to tears after NASCAR drivers and crew united in a show of support, pushing his car to the front of the field before Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
Wallace was joined by Richard Petty, the 82-year-old Hall of Fame driver known as “The King”, as the national anthem played. Wallace drives for Petty, who also issued a scathing rebuke after the noose was reported.
The apparent discovery in Wallace’s team garage came a fortnight after NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races and properties – formally distancing itself from what has been a familiar sight at stock car events for more than 70 years.
The ban is controversial. Luke Johnson, one of few fans in the stands on Monday, said he was against it.
“All the NASCAR tracks need to keep on flying them,” he said.
As for the noose left for Wallace, he said: “I thought it was funny myself.”
Another fan, Robert Chaisson, had no strong opinion on the ban, but he did on the noose.
“That was messed up. I hope they charge that guy with a hate crime,” he said.