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NASCAR's Bubba Wallace Was Not The Target Of A Hate Crime, FBI Says

The FBI team investigating the incident concluded the "noose" found in Bubba Wallace's garage was actually a pull rope that had been in the stall long before the driver was assigned.
John Bazemore
The FBI team investigating the incident concluded the "noose" found in Bubba Wallace's garage was actually a pull rope that had been in the stall long before the driver was assigned.

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime, according to the FBI.

A day-long investigation by 15 special agents into the discovery of a noose in Wallace's garage at the Talledega Superspeedway revealed that the rope had been in the stall since at least October.

"After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed," FBI Special Agent Jonnie Sharp said in a joint statement with Birmingham U.S. Attorney Jay Town.

"The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. ... 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 statement continued.

In a separate statement, NASCAR explained that the noose was actually just a pull rope that had been tied together.

Wallace is the only Black driver in stock car racing's top circuit.

While the FBI investigation has concluded, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the association's inquiry is ongoing.

"We're continuing our portion of the investigation to figure out why there was a rope fashioned as a noose," Phelps told reporters in a Tuesday evening press conference.

He also called the federal findings "the best result we could hope for."

"It was disturbing to think that one of our own could have committed this heinous act."

Phelps explained the the rope was found by one of Wallace's crew members. "He saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR" officials.

Over the last month, Wallace has been at the center of several controversies connected to his efforts to make racing "more welcoming for everybody" following ongoing national protests against racism.

He successfully led the effort to get NASCAR to ban the Confederate battle flag at its racing events and facilities earlier this month.

The move drew heated criticism against the stock car racing association and Wallace from racing fans who declared they'd no longer support the sport.

Since then, Wallace has driven a Black Lives Matter-themed car in a race.

Before the race in Alabama on Sunday, dozens of drivers helped Wallace push his car — #43 — to the front of the field in an act of solidarity following the incident.

The gesture brought Wallace to tears.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.

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