NASCAR and MotorTrend are retelling the story of a wild 2020 Cup Series season through the documentary series NASCAR 2020: Under Pressure. The first episode focused on the Daytona 500 and the pandemic delay, but the second shined a light on Bubba Wallace. The episode, "United We Stand," discussed Wallace stepping into the spotlight, pushing for the Confederate flag ban and the investigation into a garage door handle with a noose tied into it.
The episode featured the story of the investigation told from multiple viewpoints. NASCAR President Steve Phelps, Wallace, The Athletic's Jordan Bianchi and other figures discussed the events leading up to the discovery at Talladega, the ensuing investigation and the FBI's findings. They mentioned the heightened emotions leading up to the Geico 500 at Talladega due to Wallace's stance on the Confederate flag and his decision to drive a car featuring a Black Lives Matter paint scheme during a previous race. Wallace then detailed his first conversation with Phelps about the door pull handle.
"[Phelps] walks in and he just gave you one of those, 'hey, man.' He did not want to be talking to me," Wallace said. "Looked at the floor and looked up at me and was struggling to form a sentence. He got choked up as soon as he started talking. He was like, 'I hate to say it, but there was a hate crime committed. There was a noose found in your garage.' He had tears rolling at this point."
Wallace then explained that he called up the crew member that originally discovered the garage door pull in the shape of the noose. He said that he wanted to ensure that they weren't jumping to conclusions and that it actually was what they thought. "He said, 'absolutely not. There was no other one like that in the garage.'" The crew member said that the noose took time to tie.
The FBI ultimately conducted an investigation at NASCAR's request and sent 14 agents to Talladega. The federal organization determined after multiple days that the noose was not a hate crime. They discovered photos from the fall race that showed the rope with the noose handle was in the garage prior to Wallace's arrival — although it was the only stall out of 1,684 that had a rope pull tied with a noose handle.
When the FBI determined that there was no hate crime, critics took to Twitter to call Wallace "Bubba Smollett" while saying that he perpetuated a hoax. President Donald Trump also called for the driver to apologize. NASCAR heard the critics and addressed them during the latest episode.0comments
"I think there were a lot of people that... they were just cocked and ready to find the flaw," said FOX Sports' analyst Larry McReynolds. "When you've got people like that... you know what? You're not gonna win. You're not gonna win, and I just felt like it was so unfair."
Created as a partnership between racing's sanctioning body and MotorTrend, NASCAR 2020: Under Pressure is available exclusively on MotorTrend On Demand. Two episodes are currently available while the remaining five will drop every Saturday until Dec. 12. The cost of MotorTrend OnDemand is $4.99 per month or $49.99 for a year subscription. There is a free seven-day trial as well for new subscribers. The MotorTrend app is available on Apple TV, Roku Box, Google Chromecast, Xbox, and Amazon Fire TV.