June 23 (UPI) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation has determined that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace wasn’t the victim of a hate crime after a pull rope fashioned like a noose was discovered in his garage stall Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
The FBI report concluded that the pull rope had been on a garage door at the central Alabama racetrack since as early as October.
“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,” NASCAR said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said its investigation determined “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.”
No charges will be filed, the FBI said.
“After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed,” the agency said in its statement.
A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports found the rope Sunday at the track. NASCAR was alerted and contacted the FBI, which sent 15 agents to conduct multiple interviews about the incident Monday at Talladega.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Wood Brothers Racing team said one of its employees recalled “seeing a tied handle in the garage pull down rope from last fall,” when NASCAR held an event in October at Talladega. The racing team said it immediately informed NASCAR and assisted the federal investigation.
Wallace, who is the only black driver in the Cup Series, recently led a successful push to ban the Confederate flag at NASCAR events and properties less than two weeks ago.
Before Monday’s running of the GEICO 500 in Alabama, drivers and pit crew personnel stood beside Wallace during the national anthem and then pushed his No. 43 Chevrolet to the front of the grid before the Cup Series race. He was emotional when climbing out of his car.
“The sport is changing. The deal that happened [Sunday], I just wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile,” Wallace said after the race. “I’m going to keep on going. … The pre-race deal [Monday] was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life.
“From all the supporters, from drivers, crew members and everybody here … It was truly incredible and I’m proud to be a part of this sport.”
Wallace ranks 21st in the Cup Series standings with a pair of top-10 finishes in 13 starts.