FBI finds Nascar noose incident not a hate crime

Nascar driver Bubba Wallace (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation has determined that a noose found in the garage stall of African-American Nascar driver Bubba Wallace was not a hate crime, and that the rope had been at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama as early as last October.

The findings come after an emotionally charged weekend at the racetrack, site of the Geico 500, as Nascar continues its efforts to break from more racist elements of its past. 

“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. “This was obviously well before [Wallace’s] team’s arrival and garage assignment. We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to lean 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.”

As a result of the FBI’s findings, no charges will be filed.

Wallace, in an interview on CNN, praised Nascar’s quick handling of the situation, and pushed back against any suggestion that the property overreacted.

“I stand by Steve [Phelps, Nascar president]. I stand by Nascar,” Wallace said. “This will not break me. None of the allegations of being a hoax will break me or tear me down. Will it piss me off? Absolutely. But that only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up.”

Phelps said Nascar will continue to investigate why the rope had been fashioned into a noose, even if it wasn’t directed at Wallace, the lone African-American driver on the elite Cup Series.

“For us in Nascar, this is the best result we could hope for,” he said. “This is…disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI, definitively, that there was not a hate crime.

“I do want to make sure everyone understands that, if given the evidence that we had delivered to us on late Saturday afternoon, we we would do the same thing. 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.”

The noose incident comes shortly after Wallace helped push Nascar to ban the Confederate flag at its racetracks and properties, with the flag for many Americans standing as a symbol of racism, oppression, and slavery. 

But Nascar has not detailed all of its enforcement plans for the ban, and this past weekend, many independent merchandise vendors this past weekend were selling items with the Confederate flag outside Talladega Superspeedway, and fans also displayed them outside the facility.