NASCAR Noose Scandal Ends Abruptly

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

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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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 25, 2020

    True but before you call the police and get the news media involved you should ask why the rope is tied with a loop and how long it has been that way. Are we going to become so sensitive that we take offense at everything? Will it become to where you cannot tie a loop or a knot because it will offend someone? A loop on a rope that opens and closes a garage door is a far cry from displaying the Confederate flag, a Swastika, burning a cross, putting a knee on someone's neck or throat. Injustices need to be dealt with and corrected but let's not go to the extreme of looking for offense in everything we see and hear. Will I be harassed or cited for tying a knot on my garage door or even just tying my shoes? How far are we going to carry this? If the rope were just hanging on a beam with a hangman's noose then yes that is most likely intentional and should be taken as offensive. Do we take offense at someone saying "Good Morning"? Maybe it is easier not to speak to anyone and to just not go out and not be around people because they might take offense at anything you say or do. Might be a good idea to stay away from people because of COVID-19 but if some is going to take offense at everything then it might be easier to become a hermit.

    • See 2 previous
    • Old_WRX Old_WRX on Jun 25, 2020

      @FreedMike "We need to understand that and try to empathize with it before we judge. If we can, then I bet that a lot of the so-called “racial strife” happening now would disappear." Agreed, 100%. We need to learn to understand, as best we can, each other. We also need to understand that: a) these problems will not disappear over night; b) so called reverse racism is racism; c) we are different -- and this is good and something to celebrate; d) I am not "better" than you and you are not "better" than me; e) people are entitled to their tastes/biases as long as they don't take them out on other people or try to force other people to agree with them. " day on the red hills of Georgia..." That's my feeling about all this.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 25, 2020

    FreedMike--Why not ask why the rope is tied instead of untied. True I am not Black but I am going to ask first instead of assuming that there are bad intentions directed at me. My opinion and I could be entirely incorrect but this was for publicity a way for Wallace to get attention. It shouldn't matter what race, color, sexual preference or religious preference if you are the best at what you do you will get attention. If you work at being the best and eventually become the best it will not matter you will get the attention and respect of your peers and the public. Another thing to remember if you eliminate a symbol and try to rewrite History you risk that future generations do not know what happen. That Asian swastika was not originally a symbol of a despot and was not meant as a hate symbol but because Hitler used it as the symbol of the Nazis it became bad. Why do you think the Holocaust Museum displays a swastika along with a history of the Holocaust? Do you think they like that symbol? If you cannot see that a swastika along with anything related to Hitler and the Nazis is because they don't want the World and future generations to forget the horror of what happen. Maybe take some of those Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy and display them in a museum with a history of slavery and what happened so that History is not repeated. Agree with Urlik that a logical person would first think that the rope has a loop to pull the door down and that it isn't a slip knot nor a noose. Let's not read something more into than what it is which is a loop to put your hand into to pull a garage door down instead of having rope burns on your hand. I have done this same thing myself in my own garage so based on your opinion I shouldn't do this and I am doing this intentionally and therefore I am a racist. I disagree with you but you have a right to your opinion and I have a right to my own and it is just as wrong to make a quick judgement based on little or no information.

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