The pull rope on the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of the 43 team of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, fashioned as a noose, was discovered by a member of the 43 team at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
NASCAR officials, after being informed of the discovery, informed Wallace, the series’ only African-American driver, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, and released a statement at 10:40 p.m.
This we learned from a timeline into the incident and the investigation released by the racing series on Thursday.
The FBI announced on Tuesday that it had concluded its own investigation into the incident and determined that nothing of a criminal nature had taken place.
NASCAR continued with its own investigation to try to determine how the noose had gotten into the garage stall.
The FBI statement indicated that the noose had been on the stall since October 2019, and NASCAR had confirmed that the assignment of the 43 team to that particular garage had been done according to normal operating procedure, which assigns teams to garages based on NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Series officials, as part of the investigation, also asked each track to sweep through respective garages. Across the 1,684 garage stalls at 29 tracks, NASCAR found only 11 total had a pull-down rope tied in a knot and only one noose — the one discovered Sunday in the 43 garage stall.
To address questions raised by some in the media, NASCAR released a photo of the noose on Thursday, and when you see the photo, no question, it was a noose.
“As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family. Our NASCAR family. Because they are part of the NASCAR family, too. We are proud to see so many stand up for what’s right.”
The discovery of the noose came on an emotionally charged day at Talladega, in the midst of an emotionally charged couple of weeks, dating to the June 10 announcement from NASCAR that it was banning the display of Confederate flag at its tracks and premises, effective immediately.
That news was met with upset from a vocal minority of NASCAR fans, and then you get to the speedway on Sunday, and the road outside was lined with Confederate flags, and a plane flew overhead towing a flag and a sign reading “Defund NASCAR.”
Sunday’s race was postponed to Monday due to rain, and it was after the postponement that the off-track news hit the interwebs, culminating with the late-night statement from NASCAR about the discovery of the noose.
Drivers took up the cause on Monday, pushing Wallace’s 43 car to the front of the pack for the pre-race national anthem in a show of solidarity.
Wallace ran strong in the race, bumping and grinding his way into the top five in the final laps before issues with fuel dropped him back ahead of the final restart, during which he was able to claw his way back to a 14th-place finish.
The questions about the noose had lingered after, with some in the media trying to frame the controversy as a hoax.
Phelps emphasized Thursday that Wallace and his team “had nothing to do with this.”
Whoever it was that did have something to do with the placement of the noose back last fall, yeah, seems we will never know.
Phelps made it clear that it’s a situation of case closed.
“Our ultimate conclusion for this investigation is to ensure that this never happens again, that no one walks by a noose without recognizing the potential damage it can do,” Phelps said. “Going forward, our efforts are best spent on making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome. I would also like to reinforce that what we did see at Talladega in pre-race on Monday, our drivers, crews and officials proudly demonstrated that we are united in the belief that there is no place for racism in our sport.”
Except that somebody fashioned a rope into a noose, whose only purpose in contemporary America is racial intimidation, left it on a garage stall, where it remained for nine months, with no one who encountered it thinking anything of its placement or its connotations.
The “no place for racism in our sport” line is still aspirational in that context.
Story by Chris Graham