TALLADEGA, Ala. — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating after a noose was found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet driven by Bubba Wallace, the NASCAR Cup Series’ only African American driver.
In a statement sent to members of the media on Monday, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town confirmed the FBI is involved in the investigation.
“The U.S Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama, FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are reviewing the situation surrounding the noose that was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage to determine whether there are violations of federal law,” Town’s statement read. “Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society.”
The noose was found sometime Sunday. The GEICO 500, which was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, was postponed by poor weather conditions at the track. It is scheduled for 3 p.m. today (Monday) and will air live on FOX.
The discovery came less than two weeks after NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events and properties on June 10. Wallace, who has become a vocal supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and drove a car with a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, called for the ban of the flag prior to NASCAR’s decision.
Wallace responded to the discovery with a statement on Twitter Sunday evening.
“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace said. “Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry, including other drivers and team members in the garage.
“Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone,” Wallace continued. “Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate. As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you.’
“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.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she was “shocked and appalled” after finding out about the discovery of the noose in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega.
“I am shocked and appalled to hear of yesterday’s vile act against Bubba Wallace in Talladega,” Ivey said. “There is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state. Racism and threats of this nature will not be condoned nor tolerated, and I commit to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished. While the important conversation of racial reconciliation is ongoing all over our country, it is clear there is much work to do. Bubba Wallace is one of us; he is a native of Mobile and on behalf of all Alabamians, I apologize to Bubba Wallace as well as to his family and friends for the hurt this has caused and regret the mark this leaves on our state.
“I ask the NASCAR family to rally around Bubba and his team as they compete today and I know that there are more people who are wishing him well today than ever before.”
A number of Wallace’s competitors came to his defense on social media since NASCAR announced the discovery of the noose on Sunday evening. Among them was Ryan Blaney, one of Wallace’s closest friends.
“You’re my brother and always will be,” Blaney said to Wallace on Twitter. “Don’t let the people who are lower than life to try and bring you down. They won’t scare you because you’re strong. I stand with you pal. Forever.”
Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, now a broadcaster with FOX Sports, also tweeted in Wallace’s defense.
“There is no place for racism! I am outraged and saddened by the actions yesterday at @TalladegaSuperS. I fully support @NASCAR’s efforts to be welcoming to all,” Gordon said.
The Associated Press and other media outlets reported Monday morning that 83-year-old Richard Petty, Wallace’s team owner, is expected to be in attendance for Monday’s rescheduled race in a show of support for Wallace. It will be the first race Petty has attended since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The seven-time Cup Series champion released a statement early Monday afternoon.
“I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team,” Petty said in his statement. “There is absolutely no place in our sport or our society for racism. This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change.
“The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR. I believe in my heart this despicable act is not representative of the competitors I see each day in the NASCAR garage area. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba, yesterday, today, tomorrow and every day forward.”