Wallace not targeted, rope in car stall since October 2019

Wallace Not Targeted, Rope In Car Stall Since October 2019

A federal attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have concluded the noose rope found Sunday in Garage Stall 4 assigned to Richard Petty’s No. 43 team and his driver, African-American Bubba Wallace had been there since at least October 2019.

Wallace was not targeted, and no federal law was violated, a joint statement issued Tuesday at the conclusion of their investigation said.

U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. issued the statement  about the rope found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage.

“On Monday, 15 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 statement said.

Town and Sharp said the FBI examined Garage No. 4, where the rope was found and which had been assigned to Wallace’s car in preparation for the GEICO 500. That race, slated for Sunday, was delayed by rain until Monday. Wallace’s close friend, Ryan Blaney, narrowly won by inches in front of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

“The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in Garage No. 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019,” the joint statement said. “Although the noose is now known to have been in Garage No. 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to Garage No. 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,” the pair said in the statement.

But NASCAR itself is not done with its own investigation, President Steve Phelps said Tuesday. One question it wants answered was why the rope, a garage door pull, was formed into a noose at all and when it was tied.

Once those answers are found, Phelps promised to release that information and to take questions.

The motorsports governing body issued its own statement Tuesday: “The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime.

“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 team’s 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.”

In a limited telephone news conference at which he took no questions, Phelps said learning that Wallace was not targeted was both a relief and the best outcome.

He had been disturbed at the thought that “one of our own” had committed a heinous act.

Still, he applauded the investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice, and would call for their help should similar evidence be uncovered at other event sites.

“There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It is not part of who we are as a sport,” he said.

He stressed that NASCAR cooperated fully with investigators, “as you would expect.” The governing body and the No. 43 team provided roster information and photographs and video evidence, he said.

Phelps said he wanted to make it clear that “the No. 43 team had nothing to do with this.” A member of that team found the rope, reported it to the crew chief, Jerry Baxter, who in turn informed NASCAR Managing Director Jay Fabian.

“To be clear, we would do this again… we needed to look into this,” Phelps said.

He said the determination didn’t lessen “one of the most important days we had.”

He referred to a groundswell of support for Wallace, started by seven-time Cup champion and El Cajon native Jimmie Johnson, who told other drivers he would stand by Wallace during Monday’s playing of the national anthem.

Another Californian, Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick, suggested supportive drivers push Wallace’s car onto its starting position before the race. As word spread, more drivers, their pit crews, other team members and track officials decided to join the procession.

Wallace’s team owner attended the race; the 82-year-old Petty had not been to a track since the pandemic shelter-at-home orders were put in place.

The scene “is an indelible print on my mind till the day I die,” Phelps said. “We are one big family, one large community.

That community thought one of its members was under attack, he said. “Everyone supported Bubba Wallace and the 43 team,” he said. “This is a great conclusion for us and for Bubba, to understand he was not targeted.”

Meanwhile, Steve Page, president of Sonoma Raceway, issued his own statement after some twine was found knotted into a noose shape and tied to a tree near unused administrative offices on track property.

“On Saturday, a Sonoma Raceway staff member discovered a piece of twine tied in what appeared to be a noose hanging from a tree on raceway property. Our staff, on-site business tenants and local law enforcement have been contacted and asked to share any information they may have.

“The incident is under investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.  Sonoma Raceway takes this incident very seriously and is dedicated to operating a facility that is welcoming to everyone.”

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