NASCAR released upsetting news Sunday (June 21) from Talladega Superspeedway after a noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 car. The news broke just before 11 p.m. but the discovery was made that afternoon.
Officials responded with a statement vowing to identify any individuals involved in the act as soon as possible. No one person was attributed to the release.
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team,” the statement read. “We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”
Around the time of the statement’s release, Wallace took to Twitter to respond to the incident.
“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace said. “Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.”
Wallace also took time to emphasize he’s been overwhelmed by support. Fellow competitors and team members across the garage in recent weeks have stepped up as the driver spoke out.
“As my mother told me today,” he concluded. “‘They are just trying to scare you.’ This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
Since 2018, Bubba Wallace has drove Richard Petty’s famed No. 43 car as the only African-American full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. Amid growing concerns over racial inequality in the country, he has spoken out in recent weeks in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Wallace pushed for a ban of the Confederate flag in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, a suggestion taken up by NASCAR June 10.
The driver then ran a paint scheme in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that night at Martinsville Speedway. He finished 11th in the race.
Prior to the currently-postponed GEICO 500 Sunday, a confederate flag was flown above the racetrack with the words “Defund NASCAR” connected to it. Members of social media outlets also posted videos of vehicles flying the banned flag before the original start time of the race. Those cars were allegedly en route to the speedway in what some suggested was a coordinated protest parade.
.@RPMotorsports owner Andrew Murstein says he is "shocked and saddened" by a noose reportedly being found in the team's garage stall today.
🗯: "You would like to think that the country has changed for the better in the last 40-plus years. Unfortunately, in many ways it hasn't." pic.twitter.com/VySXhrosCu
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) June 22, 2020
NASCAR said late Sunday they’ll work with law enforcement to see if any actual crimes have been committed. Multiple cameras are located throughout the garage stalls at Talladega Superspeedway, video which should assist in the investigation.
The Noose Hate Crime Act of 2011: Amends the federal criminal code to impose a fine and/or prison term of up to two years on anyone who, with intent to harass or intimidate any person because of that person's race, religion, or national origin, displays a noose in public.
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) June 22, 2020
Some further research indicates that this law was never voted on and it was only introduced.
HOWEVER, Alabama Code Title 13A. Criminal Code § 13A-5-13 states an individual can be prosecuted and punished as follows but ONLY IF that individual has been found guilty of a crime. pic.twitter.com/pHfes1bU4V
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) June 22, 2020
NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed media via teleconference on Monday afternoon. Phelps stated that the noose was found Sunday by a No. 43 crew member, who notified the sanctioning body. NASCAR has been in touch with local authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with FBI investigators at the track Monday morning.
We are, as I said, in the early stages of this,” Phelps told media. “We will continue to keep the media informed as we learn more. Obviously this is a very, very serious act. We take it as such. We will do everything in our power to make sure that whoever has committed this act comes to justice and comes to light and we rid this type of behavior from our sport.”
Phelps added that details of an ongoing Federal investigation, including any potential suspects and evidence, are confidential as they are integral to the case.
Phelps also reiterated that access to the garage is very limited currently due to COVID-19.
“As you are aware, we have a very small number of people that are in the footprint, only essential personnel there,” Phelps said. Obviously we’ll review the entire list with the FBI about who had access at that particular time. We also use something called ‘compartmentalization’. We’ll look at who was in that particular area. We’ll be able to narrow that down. Again, getting into the specifics about what the FBI is going to do working with our security people, it’s kind of too early to determine. I don’t have access to the information at this point.
“I can’t say no for certain (if there was a security breach). The security around getting into the footprint is significant. As I’m sure you guys are aware, we have limited it just to essential personnel. Security is very tight getting in and out of the footprint. I can’t speculate whether there would be a breach or not.”
Phelps added, “We’re going to use every effort we can to determine who has done this, whether it’s a single person or multiple people. I know that the director of the FBI has informed the Birmingham office to use all their resources to find out, as well, all the resources available to NASCAR, the FBI. The teams and drivers and anyone who would have any access to this have all said, Hey, we want to make sure we figure out who has done this vile act.”
He also made it clear that NASCAR will not tolerate acts such as this one, stating that provided the person or people responsible is identified, “Unequivocally they will be banned from this sport for life. There is no room for this at all. We won’t tolerate it. They won’t be here. I don’t care who they are, they will not be here.”
Phelps confirmed that there was extra security for Wallace today and the No 43 team was allowed to inspect the car to make sure that it was not tampered with and is safe to race today.
RPM owner Richard Petty also called for a permanent ban for the perpetrator and released the following statement:
— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) June 22, 2020
This is still a developing story.