Rope found hanging in Wallace's garage was coincidence
NASCAR went to Talladega Superspeedway on high alert after Bubba Wallace, his only black driver, took an active role in promoting racial equality.
Wallace had successfully requested and received threats to ban the Confederate flag. The fans marched past the main entrance of the Alabama route and showed the flag. An airplane circled the speedway and pulled a Confederate flag banner that read “Defund NASCAR”.
So NASCAR was moving fast when one of Wallace's crew discovered a rope in the form of a noose in his garage stall. The sanctions authority called the federal authorities who decided on Tuesday that the rope had been hanging there since at least last October and was not a hate crime.
US attorney Jay Town and FBI special agent in charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said the investigation found that "nobody could have known that Mr. Wallace would be assigned to this stand". NASCAR said it was the only garage stand with a pull-down rope that resembled a noose.
NASCAR has defended its response and insisted on calling the FBI again. A defiant Wallace said there was no confusion and the rope was looped.
"I wanted to make sure that this wasn't just a knot," Wallace said on CNN. "It was a noose. Whether it was a draw in 2019 ... it's a noose. "
Wallace never saw the rope. He said NASCAR President Steve Phelps came with "tears on his face" on Sunday evening to visit him on the track.
"The evidence he brought me was that a hate crime was committed," said Wallace, who immediately started to fear his family's safety.
Even after the FBI decided it wasn't a hate crime, Wallace was furious with what he sees as a constant test of his character. He has no bad will towards NASCAR.
"I'm behind Steve and I'm behind NASCAR," he said. “NASCAR was worried about Talladega. We had circled it on the radar and everything was going on. "
NASCAR opened the Talladega gates to 5,000 fans, the highest number ever during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since finding his voice last month, the 26-year-old Alabama-born American has taken an international role in NASCAR's attempt to overcome his rocky race history. Wallace wore an "I can't breathe" shirt, had a Black Lives Matter color scheme in Virginia, and was successful in banning the Confederate flag.
NASCAR assigned security to Wallace on the route. The first word of the incident came in a crisp statement in which NASCAR said it was "angry and outraged" at the "heinous act" that directly linked the series to racism.
The FBI sent 15 agents to Talladega for the scheduled race on Monday while the industry gathered around Wallace. In an unprecedented sign of solidarity, each team member stood behind him on the pit lane during the national anthem.
Phelps asked exactly nine questions about the find in Wallace's garage, and none provided details of the incident. Due to health protocol limitations, a limited number of employees have access to the garage. Only a handful of Wallace's crew and NASCAR saw the rope.
About 48 hours after the discovery, the federal authorities confirmed that the rope "was already in this garage in October 2019" and was hanging on a garage door. The rope was called a noose but can be used as a handle when closing the rope door.
Phelps continued to call it a noose after the authorities announced they would not indict and noted that NASCAR was investigating why the rope was tied in this way. He was pleased that it wasn't a hate crime against Wallace, but insisted that NASCAR would have conducted his investigation the same way, even though he knew it was just a coincidence.
"We would have done the same investigation. It was important to us, ”he said.
“The evidence was very clear that the noose that was in the garage was there before. This loop was present at the last race in October. The evidence we had was clear that we had to take care of it. "
He asked no questions about the FBI's results.
In the meantime, the Wood Brothers Racing team said it had been involved in the investigation and one employee recalled seeing a tied handle in the garage last fall when the team had the booth.
NASCAR said it found a noose that stunned the stock car series when it took an active position in an effort for inclusion. The series first attempted to ban the Confederate flag five years ago, but did nothing to enforce the order.
NASCAR has yet to describe in detail how it will answer Wallace's call to stop flag display.
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