Nascar defends handling of noose incident

A picture of the noose found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (Nascar)

Nascar completed its internal investigation surrounding a noose found in the garage stall of African-American driver Bubba Wallace, and insisted it would not done anything different during the emotionally charged week. 

After the US Federal Bureau of Investigation found the noose was not a hate crime and had been at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama since at least October, Nascar on June 25 released a photo of the noose found hanging in Wallace’s stall. 

The organization also said that while the noose had been there since October, a review of 1,684 garage stalls at 29 tracks across Nascar found 11 had pull-down ropes tied in a knot and only the one noose.

“Given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose,” said Steve Phelps, Nascar president. “Upon learning of the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. We’re living in a highly charged and emotional time. What we saw was a symbol of hate, and was only present in one area of the garage – that of the No. 43 car of Bubba Wallace.

Phelps did acknowledge Nascar’s initial statement condemning what was called “a heinous act” could have been more clear and should have also used the word “alleged.” But he vigorously defended the organization’s overall response.

“As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba…Some feel that the phrasing or words used were not right. That comes with the territory, and I will take full responsibility for that and for the emotion that was attached to it,” he said. “Based on the evidence we had, we felt that one of our drivers had been threatened, a driver who has been extremely courages in recent words and actions. It was our responsibility to react and investigate and that’s exactly what we did.”

It remains unknown who tied the rope in that fashion, or why it was done.

“We have no idea what the intent was at all, whether there was any malice in it or whether it was just fashioned as a noose for a pulley. We don’t know that,” Phelps said.

The organization plans to add cameras to its garages and will require sensitivity and unconscious bias training for members across the industry. 

The next Nascar race will be the Pocono Organics 325 in Pennsylvania, and will be held with heightened security as Wallace has been subjected to death threats and accused of perpetrating a hoax.

“We need to keep Bubba safe. We need to keep a member of our family safe,” Phelps said. 

The saga comes as Nascar is undergoing a large-scale reckoning with more racist elements of its past. Wallace, the lone African-American driver on the elite Cup Series, has used his car to spotlight Black Lives Matter and issues of racial justice. And he helped pushed Nascar earlier this month to ban the Confederate flag at all Nascar events and properties.