Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR and the FBI released joint statements saying that driver Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime. NASCAR President Steve Phelps also provided a statement to reporters defending the investigation into whether or not someone placed a noose in Wallace's garage at Talladega Superspeedway. He said that NASCAR would investigate again if the situation arose.
"To be clear, we would do this again. The evidence we had, it was clear we needed to look into this," Phelps said during a teleconference. He also said that this is the "best result" NASCAR could hope for. He believes that it's fantastic to hear that this was not a hate crime. It was merely a misunderstanding featuring a garage door pull handle. He also shut down any rumors that the 43 team "pulled a Jussie Smollett" and fabricated the story. Phelps said that the evidence is clear that the noose was in the garage back in October.
"The No. 43 team had nothing to do with this." NASCAR President Steve Phelps with more details on the results of the FBI's investigation from Talladega. pic.twitter.com/msk3iGjVul— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 23, 2020
In addition to expressing happiness about the investigation's outcome, Phelps also revealed that the investigation is not fully complete. NASCAR will continue to investigate why the pull rope was in the shape of a noose during the 2019 Talladega event, as well as in 2020. According to Jeff Gluck of The Athletic, he indicated that the garage pulldown ropes do generally not appear in the noose shape. Once this investigation is complete, Phelps will provide more answers for reporters.
"The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime," NASCAR said in a statement on Tuesday. "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 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." The FBI said in its statement that the organization declined to pursue charges after reviewing authenticated video evidence.
As part of the ongoing investigation, the FBI conducted 15 interviews. Federal agents spoke to Wallace and many others that would have had access to the garage at Talladega Superspeedway. This also included an employee of Woods Brothers Racing after the unidentified individual mentioned previously seeing a garage door rope in the shape of a noose.