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FBI says no hate crime in Bubba Wallace case, rope had been in garage since last fall

Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, and NASCAR Hall of Famer and team owner Richard Petty look on after NASCAR drivers pushed Wallace to the front of the grid as a sign of solidarity with the driver prior to the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Ala. A noose was found in the garage stall of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway a week after the organization banned the Confederate flag at its facilities. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images/TNS)
June 23, 2020

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime when a noose was reportedly found in his garage stall last Sunday, the sanctioning body said in a statement on Tuesday.

Instead, the noose, which turned out to be a garage door pull rope, had been there since last fall.

“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” NASCAR said. “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 teams’ arrival and garage assignment. 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.”

Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black driver, was informed of the situation following Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega, which was pushed to Monday because of rain. Before Monday’s green flag, all drivers and team members pushed Wallace’s No. 43 Richard Motorsports Chevrolet to the front of the starting grid in a show of solidarity.

“This is truly incredible and I’m proud to be a part of this sport,” said Wallace, 26, who finished 14th on Monday and saluted fans in the stands after the race.

Wood Brothers Racing, which had its car in Wallace’s garage last fall, said one of their employees recalled seeing the rope that weekend.

“One of our employees alerted us yesterday morning that, without knowing the details, he recalled seeing a tied handle in the garage pull-down rope from last fall,” the team said in a statement on Twitter. “We immediately alerted NASCAR and have assisted in the investigation in every way possible.”

In a separate statement, the FBI said it sent 15 agents to the track to investigate the incident and found video evidence that the rope was seen in the garage as early as last October.

“Nobody could have known Mr. Wallace could have been assigned to garage number 4 last week,” the statement added. “After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed.”


© 2020 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.

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