CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR has completed its investigation into the noose that was found in the garage stall of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet of Bubba Wallace on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
In addition, the sanctioning body released an image of the noose that was taken by a member of NASCAR’s security team on Sunday evening.
“As you can see from the photo the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba,” said NASCAR President Steve Phelps Thursday during a teleconference with members of the media.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, through video and photographic evidence as well as testimony, determined the noose as having been in the No. 4 garage stall at Talladega since last October. The FBI completed its investigation into the matter Tuesday, determining that no hate crime had been committed.
“Through the investigation and the examination of the video and photographic evidence, the FBI was able to determine the noose was present in the same garage stall as last fall,” Phelps said. “It was still our responsibility to find answers to key questions as we talked about on Tuesday. How did the noose get there? Was anyone an intended target? Was this a code of conduct violation? Are nooses present elsewhere in other garages where we race?”
As part of NASCAR’s investigation, series and track officials swept every facility at which the NASCAR Cup Series competes to see if there were nooses in any other garage stalls.
After the sweep of 29 tracks and 1,684 garage stalls only one noose was found — the one at Talladega Superspeedway.
“We found only 11 had a pull-down rope tied in a knot and only one noose, the one discovered on Sunday in Bubba Wallace’s garage,” Phelps said.
The new garage buildings at Talladega Superspeedway were completed last year and used for the first time last October. The No. 4 garage stall, where the noose was found, was occupied by the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team last October.
The NASCAR investigation determined that the rope did not start last October’s race weekend at Talladega as a noose.
“We further determined the noose was not in place when the October 2019 race weekend began, but was created at some point during that weekend,” Phelps said. “Given that timing and the garage access policies and procedures at the time, we are unfortunately unable to determine with any certainty who tied this rope in this manner or why it was done.”
At this point, NASCAR does not know who tied the noose or what the intent was for doing so.
“We did have a lot of conversations as part of our investigation with the Wood Brothers, as we did with others in the industry,” Phelps said. “We could not determine whether it was someone on their team or someone else, but (there were) extensive conversations there.
“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 that while NASCAR officials were unable to determine who tied the noose or why, the ultimate goal of the investigation is to make sure such a thing never happens again. To that end, NASCAR will begin conducting thorough sweeps of garage areas at each track and will install additional cameras in all garage areas.
They are also mandating that all members of the NASCAR industry complete sensitivity and unconscious bias training. Specific details regarding that will be released at a later date.
“Going forward our efforts are best spent on making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome,” Phelps said. “I would also like to reinforce that we did see at Talladega on pre-race on Monday our drivers, crews and officials proudly demonstrate that we are united in the belief that there is no place for racism in our sport.”
Phelps added he was unable to explain why no one noticed the rope tied into a noose prior to Sunday evening.
“I’m not sure,” Phelps said. “I will go back to the idea that our industry, all of our employees in our industry broadly need to go through sensitivity and bias conscious training. It’s an important thing to do because I’m sure some – I’m not sure; odds are that someone saw it and didn’t react negatively to it. So we need to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future. So we can sweep garages for nooses, which we will do, but we’re not going to — it needs to be — we need to be better as an industry.”
Phelps did say that, in hindsight, NASCAR should have used the world alleged in its initial statement regarding the noose on Sunday evening. Phelps took full responsibility for that.
“Upon learning of and seeing the noose our initial reaction was to protect our driver,” Phelps said. “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 43 car of Bubba Wallace. In hindsight we should have, I should have, used the word alleged in our statement.”
“Based on the evidence we had, we felt like one of our drivers had been threatened,” Phelps added. “A driver who had been extremely courageous in recent words and actions. It was our responsibility to react and investigate and that’s exactly what we did.”