- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The FBI said Tuesday that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime after agents determined the noose found in Wallace’s Talladega, Alabama, garage was there as far back as last fall.

Federal authorities said there will be no charges filed.

The agencies concluded the rope hanging in the garage was fashioned like a noose, but photo evidence revealed it was there in October 2019 — well before Wallace’s arrival. U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jonnie Sharp Jr. said “nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”

“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our commitment in providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”

On Sunday, a crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports discovered the noose at the Alabama race track and alerted NASCAR officials. The racing company then contacted the FBI, which sent 15 agents to investigate.

Wallace is NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver. He made waves earlier this month when he called for the racing league to ban the Confederate flag from its events, which NASCAR then did.

Upon discovering the rope over the weekend, NASCAR said it strongly condemned the “heinous act,” adding it was “angry and outraged.” Wallace had said he was saddened by the “despicable act of racism.” The racing world rallied around Wallace, joining in a walk of solidarity before Monday’s race. An emotional Wallace, who was seen shedding tears following the walk, thanked fans after the race — high-fiving fans seen in “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts.

After Monday’s race, Wallace declared the sport was changing.

“The prerace deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life,” Wallace said. “From all the supporters, from drivers to crew members, everybody here, the badass fan base, thank you guys for coming out. This is truly incredible, and I’m glad to be a part of this sport.”

During the investigation, Wood Brothers Racing notified NASCAR officials that an employee remembered seeing last fall a tied handle in the rope used to pull down the garage door of the stall.

At a press conference Tuesday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the league will continue to investigate why the rope was fashioned as a noose in the first place, but said it was “fantastic” to learn that Wallace was not the target of a hate crime.

“To be clear, we would do this again,” Phelps said. “The evidence we had, it was clear we needed to look into this.”

Two weeks ago, NASCAR announced it would ban the Confederate flag from its races, saying it wanted to provide an “inclusive and welcoming environment for all fans.” The decision did not sit well with some, particularly those with deep roots in rebel culture of the South.

Despite NASCAR’s efforts, the flag was plainly evident over the weekend — in the skies above the track, a plane towed a banner of a Confederate flag that read, “Defund NASCAR,” while fans waved the flag from their vehicles outside.

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