Though the FBI concluded that a noose found in driver Bubba Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway was not a hate crime aimed at NASCAR’s most prominent black driver, official NASCAR videos reviewed by The Post show multiple nooses being used as garage-door pulls at the same racetrack in 2017 — and at least one in …
Though the FBI concluded that a noose found in driver Bubba Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway was not a hate crime aimed at NASCAR’s most prominent black driver, official NASCAR videos reviewed by The Post show multiple nooses being used as garage-door pulls at the same racetrack in 2017 — and at least one in 2019.
But Wallace maintains he has never seen a race car garage rope tied into a noose in all his years of racing.
“I’ve been racing since I was 9 years old; I’m 26 now, I’ll be 27 this year, and I’ve never seen a garage pull like that,” Wallace told ESPN on Wednesday. “It makes me want to drive over to my mom’s house where we used to race out of our garage and show a garage pull.”
Following the FBI’s ruling, NASCAR president Steve Phelps held a conference call with reporters Tuesday and did not address how seemingly no one suggested the noose may have simply been placed there to be used as a garage rope rather than a symbol of hate.
Phelps did not take questions and said NASCAR would continue investigating why the rope was fashioned as a noose, commonly viewed as a reference to historical lynchings of African-Americans.
An episode of NASCAR’s “Garage Cam” series from the 2017 race showed at least two nooses in garage stalls at Talladega, before Wallace had ever raced at the famed raceway.
Wallace joined Richard Petty Motorsports a few days after that race.
The FBI launched an investigation this week after a crew member from Wallace’s team spotted a noose in Wallace’s No. 4 garage stall on Sunday, but the agency concluded that the noose had been there since at least October 2019 — which a NASCAR video confirms — and thus was not part of a racist hate crime against Wallace.
Wallace said he was alerted of its existence by Phelps.
Many in the NASCAR universe appeared to jump to the conclusion that its placement in Wallace’s stall indicated an act of hate against Wallace, who two weeks earlier led the charge in NASCAR banning the Confederate flag from its events and properties.
The Post also reviewed several other “Garage Cam” videos from other race tracks over the past few years, but was not able to identify any garage ropes fashioned like nooses. While ropes are commonly used at race tracks, they usually are not structured as nooses, The Post learned.
The Talladega garages were replaced before the 2019 race at Talladega, according to longtime Fox Sports reporter Bob Pockrass, but a noose was also shown in the 2019 episode of “Garage Cam,” located in the same stall Wallace was assigned this week.
Pockrass, who has covered NASCAR for more than three decades, said he had never noticed nooses at race tracks before, but added that he wasn’t necessarily looking for them, either.
He shared a screenshot from a video he took in October 2019 at Talladega, which shows the noose in the fourth stall, which then was occupied by Paul Menard, who is white, and was later assigned to Wallace.
Went back and took a look at my camera roll on my phone and screenshot this from video … rope on the left: pic.twitter.com/Od1Z4aKaxi
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 23, 2020
Wood Brothers Racing, the team representing Menard, released a statement that one of its employees recalled seeing the same pull-down rope in the same garage last fall.
“Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in [October] 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,” the FBI said.
Tensions have been high in NASCAR since the sport banned the Confederate flag at events on June 10 in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Wallace said he has been the target of backlash from critics who claim the noose incident was a setup rather than a misunderstanding.
“I’m pissed. I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity,” Wallace said.
The race at Talladega Superspeedway was postponed Sunday because of thunderstorms and dozens of drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the field before the race took place Monday in an act of solidarity.
“Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday, and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all,” Wallace said in a statement Wednesday.