NASCAR Noose Scandal Ends Abruptly
Over the weekend, NASCAR incurred what was assumed to be a racist incident after a member of outspoken Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace’s team claimed someone had hung a noose in Wallace’s garage. Earlier in the month, the diver released a new livery on his No. 43 Chevrolet promoting Black Lives Matter, saying he and his team stood in broad support of the organization. He also requested NASCAR ban the Confederate flag from all future events — getting his wish and causing a minor ruckus within the community.
The context helped frame the noose that appeared in his garage on Sunday as a racist action and drew massive support from every corner of the sport. Richard Petty came out to said he would stand with Wallace and practically everyone walked with him down Talladega’s pit lane in solidarity. NASCAR President Steve Phelps likewise expressed his backing for Wallace on Monday, saying whoever committed the hateful act would be barred from the sport for life.
This was followed by Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay Town saying his office had launched an investigation along with the FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The wheels of justice were put swiftly into motion, but it turned out that the noose was just a door pull someone had set up in 2019.
On Tuesday, Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. released a statement on the bureau’s investigation:
On Monday, fifteen FBI special agents conducted numerous interviews regarding the situation at Talladega Superspeedway. After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed.
The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019. Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.
The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws. We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.
NASCAR similarly released a statement, saying that photo evidence showed the “noose” was being used as a door pull for that particular garage since 2019. It thanked the FBI for its hard work (which it probably could have done on its own by looking at footage of old races) and closed by saying NASCAR would “remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
One could argue that NASCAR’s handling of the situation allowed it get out of control. Banning the Confederate flag probably didn’t change much on the ground, but plenty of online noise erupted as many proclaimed they’d abandon the sport for its decision. Twitter also went into censor mode to eliminate both valid statements and blatantly racist comments stemming from the noose incident, kicking up more dust.
Meanwhile, Wallace went on CNN Tuesday night to tell Don Lemon he was “pissed” that his integrity was called into question. No shortage of people compared his situation with Jussie Smollett’s staged hate-crime assault from 2019, a wholly different incident. “I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity,” Wallace told Lemon. He maintains that what he saw in his garage was not a door pull.
“It was a noose,” Wallace continued. “Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying.”
As reported by ESPN Wednesday:
According to NASCAR, every one of those pulldowns was checked as part of the FBI investigation, and the only one of those fashioned into a noose was the rope in garage No. 4, which was assigned to the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevy this past weekend.
Meanwhile, video shot at Talladega in October of 2017 shows similar loops utilized as door pulls in several bays — your author also had one on his garage door for years. But it’s difficult to tell the type of knot that was used to fashion the pit-lane loops, even if one that tightens upon pulling seems an unlikely choice. In Wallace’s defense, many certainly resemble a noose. No doubt the one found in his team’s bay did. In the end, it seems that this was simply a gigantic and very unfortunate misunderstanding with fallout that’s only beginning to be felt.
[Image: BubbaWallace/ Twitter]
A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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