(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

2-Headed Monster: Should Someone Be Held Responsible for NASCAR’s Mishandling of Information in the Bubba Wallace Situation?

This week has been a defining one in NASCAR. Sunday, a supposed heinous act of racism – a noose – was displayed in the garage. On Monday afternoon, the teams and the industry came together to support Bubba Wallace through a very turbulent time. Then on Tuesday we learned that the supposed and reported act of racism was nothing but a big misunderstanding.

The noose that was found in the garage area at Talladega Superspeedway was a garage pull-down rope that is very common in garages all across the world. However, this particular rope was tied in a noose, for reasons unknown to anybody. How long the noose has been in that particular garage stall at Talladega is also unknown. Through video evidence, we know it was there in October 2019 when Paul Menard’s No. 21 team utilized the garage stall. The rope in question can be seen in the screenshot of a video shot by FOX Sports writer Bob Pockrass.

The incident turns out to be the best case scenario for all involved. Still, there were some missteps taken by NASCAR. Their initial statement on the matter included words such as “racism” and “heinous act” and suggested that it was done by someone with malicious intent. This was all before the facts came out to prove that none of that was true.

Clayton Caldwell thinks that someone should be held responsible for the error. Mark Kristl thinks that NASCAR did everything correctly, handling a tough situation the best they could. Let the debate begin.

This Mistake Is Inexcusable

There’s no doubt. What happened Monday at Talladega Superspeedway was incredible. The way the sport and the entire industry came together to support Bubba Wallace was remarkable. Everyone involved in the ceremony and pre-race festivities deserves a ton of credit. We proved as an industry that we love one another and that we can overcome anything. There’s no question about it.

However, much like in family, honesty is the best policy. That’s why I decided to contribute to this piece. Because there was irreparable damage that was done during this situation, and these mistakes and missteps are ones that someone in the NASCAR industry needs to be held accountable for.

In this era of social media, the phrase “be right, not first” is certainly one that a lot of reporters try to abide by when gathering information for a news piece. Anyone who has worked in the media industry will tell you, they’d rather be right than first. I remember the night Jason Leffler passed away and reading articles about it. I found one from a local paper and asked my boss at the time if I should post the news about his passing. He said “no, we need a better source.” The information turned out to be 100% true but taking that chance for the small little website I wrote for at the time was too risky.

The media members of this sport and in this world try and wait for reputable sources to come out with facts before they go out and provide information to the public. They trust that the information that comes from these reputable sources is 100% fact. In sports reporting, the most reputable sources are the leagues themselves. If the NBA posts news to their Twitter feed, no one questions it. It’s the NBA. They won’t spew falsities. They won’t report something that isn’t true.

A lot of people feel the same way about NASCAR. Whenever information is distributed by NASCAR everyone assumes that it is 100% fact. We assume the information we get from NASCAR is concrete. That’s why when we all read NASCAR’s statement on Sunday night, we all got sick to our stomachs.

It left little doubt that the situation that took place on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway was intended as a heinous, racist act by the person who committed it.

I’m confident in saying that when this news broke, most everyone in the NASCAR world felt the same way I did. I was ashamed, saddened, and shocked that someone close to NASCAR could have done such a horrific act. I, for one, woke up in the middle of the night, read it and couldn’t go back to bed for an hour. My heart ached for Bubba Wallace. I was angry that someone so close to the sport could do something so awful. NASCAR did the right thing launching an FBI investigation to get an idea of who was responsible.

One thing we certainly thought was the information that was in the statement was 100% fact. Well, come to find out, that was not the case.

Some might say, “So what? No big deal! It’s just a statement.” But it’s not just a statement. It was a statement that hundreds if not thousands of media members across the globe, NASCAR fans and the general public took as absolute fact.

 

Since the news came that the incident was not ill-intended, several in the NASCAR media world have been accused of reporting false information. Unfortunately, that sentiment is true. The folks who did report on the incident on Monday and Tuesday reported false information. It wasn’t intentional, and it wasn’t their fault because it was information they trusted from an extremely reliable source and it turned out as false.

Those media members deserve an apology. They’re the ones who have now been thrown out to the wolves to try to come up with some kind of reason as to why they would report false information. I feel terrible for the people in the industry who have to go to work the next three days and defend that without any help from NASCAR.

I thought about what would happen if a media member reported on something that was false, portrayed it as fact for 36 hours and then came out to say that they were incorrect the entire time. Ask anyone: several repercussions would occur if that was the case. It would be a career defining moment for that reporter – and not in a good way. NASCAR should be held to the same standard.

NASCAR’s press conference on Tuesday was unacceptable. They basically patted themselves on the back for their assistance with the FBI in their investigation. They took no questions afterwards, but more importantly, they left their media members out to dry providing no explanation for how or why they presented false information to the public. They didn’t offer any apologizes. They admitted no fault at all.

Yep, they took the easy way out. If they had come out and admitted they made mistakes, I would not feel the same way I do now. We’ve all made mistakes; I know I have. Some may think writing this piece is one of them. Folks are much more forgiving if you own up to your mistakes and admit your faults. Sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime. Just ask Richard Nixon.

Instead, NASCAR’s President Steve Phelps left the teleconference without even mentioning the egregious errors that NASCAR had made. That is inexcusable, and the next time information comes from directly from NASCAR, every fan, media member and person in general has the right to question its authenticity. There’s not a worse thing that can happen to an organization and that is something someone needs to be held accountable for it. – Clayton Caldwell

A Great Misunderstanding

When pondering when an individual deserves to be fired, I ask who that individual should be. Because everything in this whole situation went through the proper chains of command. The crew member who noticed the noose inspected other garage stalls to identify whether the No. 43 team had been the only ones targeted.

The crew member then reported it to NASCAR officials. The information was then subsequently passed all up to the FBI. The FBI did its investigation, and it was announced it was not a hate crime.

Now we are clamoring for someone to be fired. But we are playing Monday morning quarterback. We know all the facts so we want a scapegoat for the “oops” in this situation. Sadly, the only scapegoat could be whoever tied the noose there last year. Other than that individual, no one involved in this past race weekend should be penalized. They ought to be commended for properly reporting it rather than allowing it to fall into speculation.

In the Frontstretch group chat, after knowing the outcome, my colleague Amy Henderson perfectly summarized how the situation was handled.

“It was handled the right way across the board—the team saw it and reported it; it was given to the authorities to investigate,” she said. “Under the circumstances, the team was justified in thinking the worst; Bubba was getting all kinds of threats.”

NASCAR did not take any risks. Had it been a hate crime, it then would have been an attack on Wallace’s life, not simply a criticism of his on-track performance. By involving the FBI, NASCAR was proactive rather than reactive to this situation. It allowed the proper authorities to investigate rather than either NASCAR handle it themselves or deal with it behind closed doors.

The gravitas of everything forced NASCAR to make a statement Sunday night. The sport made changes due to current societal issues. As a result, many fans found themselves on the extreme ends of those changes. Add in the ongoing unrest in the country, and NASCAR was correct to release the news.

Despite the result of it all, NASCAR did not falsify anything in the statement. It was honest; it never named suspects nor attempted to hypothesize how it all transpired.  The FBI did its due diligence and the matter was resolved.

Therefore, the circumstances are clouding our judgment. Yes, it undoubtedly looked bad. However, Richard Petty Motorsports spotter Freddie Kraft affirmed it indeed was a noose. A noose placed in the garage stall of the only black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series during these times appeared too improbable to be coincidental.

This matter should not be concluded though. While the FBI is done with its investigation, NASCAR still has questions to answer, such as:

  • Who tied the noose in the stall last year?
  • Why would one tie a noose?
  • How did nobody notice the noose until this past race weekend?
  • Based on the statement by Wood Brothers Racing, why did NASCAR opt to involve the FBI first before asking teams if anyone knew anything? Had that employee been asked earlier, this situation could have been de-escalated and prevented embarrassment.

Did NASCAR jump the gun by announcing the statement before the conclusion of the FBI investigation? Yes and no.

Yes, it did, and the blowback from this all is the evidence. However, with all the circumstances, the act appeared horrendous.

No, NASCAR did not jump the gun because it immediately involved law enforcement to discern the truth. Everyone cooperated and the investigation went smoothly, thus part of the reason the case was solved.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps reiterated NASCAR would go through the proper channels again in a similar situation. His remarks left much to be questioned and arguably was not his best day at the helm. But that commitment to learning the truth should never change.

Given the strong opinions surrounding all of this, I ask: What would you have done differently? Furthermore, should someone be fired?  After examination of the timeline, I do not see anyone who deserves to be fired. Unfortunately, while there is relief this was not a hate crime, this colossal misunderstanding has brought forth strong feelings from many.

What has become diminished by this outcome is the solidarity from the sport. The images of everyone in the garage rallying behind Wallace, Richard Petty flying to the track in support of his driver, and media members, fans, etc. using #IStandWithBubba left a powerful message. What harm did those actions cause?

NASCAR supported its only black Cup Series driver at a time when racial divides are sweeping across the country. NASCAR boldly affirmed it will not tolerate racism within its sport.

The drivers displayed their unity despite competing against each other. The media backed NASCAR in this decision. This is monumental because many of the sanctioning body’s decisions have been questioned in the past.

Solidarity became a revelatory moment for the fanbase. On social media, too many people are leaving nasty remarks. The sport has shown that it does not want racists supporting it, period.

Additionally, solidarity became an uplifting moment for the sport, even if it was due to a misunderstanding. The unity of the sport made a difference when division is rampant throughout the country.

Finally, NASCAR proved it is no longer a good ol’ boys sport. While it has not been that way for many years, it made a powerful statement for all.

I pray a situation such as this never arises in the future. But an enormous misunderstanding does not equate to firing someone. – Mark Kristl

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Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

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29 comments

  1. Avatar

    Why is this rope, the poor offending rope still being reported as a “noose”? Shameful, until common sense is applied and the word “noose” is taken out of the conversation, the collective lovin’ idiots of the word NOOSE stops this bullshit, ain’t nothing movin’ on or to be believed!

    No it was not a honest mistake, NASCAR courted this controversy as well as the ever pathetic attention seeking whore “Bubba”. “Bubba” could have handled it much better, thanked the 15 FBI agents who were sent down to the offensive southern speedway at lighting speed to take care of “Bubba’s” feelings. Thanked the men who found nothing amiss and that would be that! Nope!!!!!!! He doubled down with astounding arrogance and hubris!

    Disgusting actually. He actually at one point disputed the findings of the 15 FBI agents. Called the fans who did not drink his KOOLAID, SIMPLE MINDED and from what I heard he let comments fly about “Trump” supporters! WTF??? REALLY?

    Let “Bubba” not forget the turmoil going on in Chicago every weekend and all across our nation, that gets zero attention!. The real ground zero for need! “Bubba” gets 15 agents who’s talents are desperately needed elsewhere, but are not used. He does not seem to care about those black lives that can use the FEDS in their neck of the woods to try and stop this cycle of violence, imo. Yes, yes..you can say NASCAR had to “report” the “incident” Blah, blah, blah. These clowns from “BUBBA”, the clowns at RPM, and NASCAR jumped the gun, and jumped it big! Wow, it is really incredible. NASCAR has not a clue in their Castle Daytona bubble about the realities of what is going on!

    Bubba could have halted this insanity, but he didn’t.

    NASCAR and “Bubba” threw their fanbase under the bus! They actually validated the lie of drunken old nasty white southern men who just, hate, hate, hate AND on a warm summer night might wear a white hood and robe around a fire!

    That was by design to gain a new following (imo) that will never be interested in the product NASCAR and “Bubba” are selling. The acts of NASCAR and “Bubba” are inexcusable regarding this incident. “Bubba” jumped on this silly bandwagon, knowing full well what that was. He is on CNN and all the other “trustworthy news sources” perpetuating a lie, a dangerous lie. What the hell is wrong with him? I gotta ask! Everybody I spoke to about this is pissed the fluck off completely, a betrayal that cannot be fixed, nor does it seem they want to fix it!

    “Bubba”……UGH! This seemingly troubled man child has a problem with the truth, and seeks attention in other ways because he just isn’t as good as the other drivers. I don’t believe for a moment that he all these years in a GARAGE believes this, or anybody in the business does. And shame on the drivers who jumped on this, chastised THEIR fan base, trying the “educate” their fan base about racism, etc!!! How insulting from millionaires living on Lake Norman, in the area and living well! Lecturing THEIR fan base on their whiteness, and the guilt they want YOU to have being WHITE! WAKE UP DRIVERS, NASCAR and the VICTIM “BUBBA”. You screwed up, you lemmings and sheep. Shame on you! Don’t you dare lecture me or others again. Screw you! “Bubba” has “balls the size of church bells” to quote a movie, and I don’t mean it in any way shape or form as a compliment!

    And shame on those “cheering” “Bubba” regardless of his BS because they want to make this non incident, a lie, a never happened scenario as a reality! And “Bubba” is feeding off these sick freaks who want this so bad to be true, besides overwhelming facts to the contrary! Seems “Bubba” is in the fantasy land with them too!

    The RACE CARD DRIVER WHO CRIED WOLF………………………………………….
    NASCAR THE BILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS WHO CRIED WOLF…………………..AND THREW THEIR FAN BASE
    UNDER A BUS……………………………………………………………………………..

    To think otherwise is naïve and retarded! My opinion, but damn, how can one not see it any other way, when the facts and truth say otherwise! Common sense people!

    • Avatar

      KB,

      Best assessment I’ve seen. NASCAR is woke to the nth degree and refuses to come close to an apology of permit any associated pundits tell it like it is.

      Thanks for a refreshing dose of sanity!

    • Avatar

      KB, why are you so triggered? Does the issue of racism hit a little close to home for you? SMDH

    • Avatar

      Look at the picture Nascar supplied, there is a wall behind it which would be an end stall. Bubba was in stall 4 and open air on both sides. Fake

  2. Avatar

    kb – i find, almost daily, that people don’t have common sense. just amazes me at how people travel through life.

    all this crap is not the reason i have been a fan for a very long time. i was a fan and watched racing to get away from all the craziness is in the world.

    not liking this “new normal”…..not at all.

  3. Avatar

    All this abuse being heaped on Bubba when he never even saw the noose. However, the overreactions to this entire incident and the finger pointing only highlight that the racism in and around Nascar is real. Yes, the powers that be in Nascar should have handled the incident better…but at least it wasn’t ignored. I will never understand the people that can spout such hatred and bigotry…and I hope I never do.

    • Avatar

      The bigotry on display in this instance is all those who immediately assume that southern race fans must be racists. Look at all the prominent figures who never once questioned the idea that a crew member or NASCAR official would use lynching imagery to threaten a driver. It didn’t happen, yet the bigots still insist that southern NASCAR is racist. Bigotry is ugly and unfair no matter who the recipient is.

    • Avatar

      Bubba is happier than he has ever been. He is enjoying the spotlight. He is grandstanding. He is thinking he is the Superstar he will never be. At the end of the race he ran to the fence to meet the adoring 25 fans. As if he had won the race. Forget Blanry the winner.

  4. Avatar

    I think most of us could have lived with a simple reporting of the Sunday night release.
    However, many of us non-journalists could sense something seemed out of place from the start.
    Nevertheless most of the sports and NASCAR media (including many on this website) seized on this opportunity to malign NASCAR fans before letting the facts play out.
    That is shameful but illustrates the death of journalism.

    • Avatar

      I agree. Clayton Caldwell implies that journalists were victims of NASCAR misinformation. However, nobody simply “reported” what NASCAR said – they all drew conclusions that NASCAR has a racism problem. The anger would not be so great if journalists just reported what NASCAR said, there is anger because journalists then editorialized and lectured us all.

  5. Avatar
    David Russell Edwards

    I think most of us who grew up with Nascar when it was still a regional sport knew the unspoken foundation of the sport. After all it was all around us, IF you chose to look. Over the years as it has grown Nascar has tried to change the stereotype, but you have to wonder how successful they have been. Bubba is like all drivers he will be around for a few years then fade away. But I suspect the cultural change that is coming about will have an impact long after he is gone.
    And thats probably a good thing.

    • Avatar

      David, there will be no NASCAR in a few years. The Millennials and GenZ don’t care for it and they have thrown their old fans under the bus to be WOKE. Very sad.

      • Avatar

        the problem with old fans, like me, is that they are the ld fans. If hey dont get the younger folks to cone you are certainly correct.

  6. Avatar

    Looking back, there are two straws that broke the camel’s back for me.

    One, the sad opening segments of the race broadcast. Like a funeral complete with dirge background music. Mike Joy speaking in a mournful golf voice. Phony drama.

    Two, after the race Wallace acted as if he had won the race, running over to the fence to be cheered by his 25 adoring fans.

    Since then he has been scarfing up on the attention nonstop. Appearing on every woke talk show that will have him. An undeserving super star!

    • Avatar

      It is beyond all logic and comprehension. Yet this is the way of what sickness has infected this country for decades and now has come home to roost! People don’t get it, they should. Sad times ahead. Good posts. God Bless.

  7. Avatar

    Yes someone should be held accountable. The fact that the FBI had to investigate a case and waste their agents’ time as a result of someone crying wolf, should be enough to warrant someone getting into trouble (at least losing their job or worse).

    I know one thing, the news media is now worthless. They will fabricate stories. They will omit important facts purposely to generate the results they desire (ratings/hits). The American people have lost something important when there is no reliable place to get the real news. No wonder things have gotten so ridiculous. We are quickly becoming an Idiocracy.

  8. Avatar

    Whoever tied the “noose” on the end of the rope was trying to provide an easier way to pull the rope and close the door. Imagine trying to start a lawn mower if you had to pull on just the cable without the T-handle. I’ve done the same where I’ve worked. It’s not easy closing a garage door with that weight.

    • Avatar

      I was thinking the same thing all along. Simple physics.

      Also strange no one noticed the “noose” last year or if it was there even before that.

  9. Avatar

    Anyone see the close up of this garage pull? How do you argue it does not look like a noose? I could go on the assumption route like all the other comments on this page (and others) and say maybe the person who tied this thought it was funny and to see how long it would go unnoticed. The comments that I have seen on this and related articles is alarming to say the least.

    At the end of the day, this rope pull down was tied in the same way a noose would be tied to a tree. You don’t need to tie a rope like that for a simple garage pull down, just a simple knot will do. The noose went under the radar for who knows how long, but that does not make it right. Only 11 garages across NASCAR was found to have this type of knot. Thats 11 out of 1648 garages. So why are only 11 tied this way?
    NASCAR should have worded their original statement better to state that they are investigating what appears to be or could be a noose and not just state it a hate crime but they acted as they should. The FBI did an amazing job as they often do with these investigations (this may be NASCARs first or your first of hearing about a noose but unfortunately this is not an uncommon incident across the US) and came to the best overall conclusion. The community for the most part came together minus a small vocal minority and showed the kind of family NASCAR is.
    Dont bother replying back to my comment, I will not be reading them.
    I hope you all can find a way to replace all your hate with happiness someday.

    • Avatar

      The people who are upset about his are not upset because they hate other people. They are upset because other people hate them. This is bigotry directed at southern whites. I’m offended by all the people that think its okay to hate and denigrate others based purely on stereotypes and bigotry. Stop assuming that everyone who is offended by being accused of racism must be a racist.

    • Avatar

      Sorry but you make it sound like the knot known as a “noose” knot is in itself now illegal to create. That just the act of tying a rope in that manner has no place anywhere. I will ask you this, did it work for the purpose for which it was created (i.e. to pull the door down)? If so, then to read into further, as if it was more than a garage door pull rope, is fiction. So, I ask you because I obviously don’t know where the PC line is anymore, if I need to tie a rope with a loop at one end and I use the noose not am I guilty of something?

    • Avatar

      Stupid is as stupid does. You just missed a great opportunity to shut up.

  10. Avatar

    Wow how the media didn’t learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.15 years ago the fans would be stuck watching a 4 hr follow the leader borefest but we would be told how exciting the race is and if we didn’t realize that we weren’t real fans..Now we’re being told by the media that because we’re not buying the plight of the social justice warriors we’re not real Americans.Report facts not opinions and NASCAR and your prima dona drivers enjoy what time you have left of relevancy.The ship has been taking on water for years but now you have sunk it by lying to and talking down to your fan base again

  11. Avatar

    NOOSECAR just about signed its death warrant. The noose that was pictured was not tied the way the one was in the stall next door. Me thinks a little photo shop took place. Also found out that Bubba is as big a publicity hound as there is. Made all the talk shows and proved that he is incapable of making a rational decision. His 15 minutes of fame is about up. Go back to being a mid packer Bubba, that is where your talent will take you. And NASCAR, how much longer do you have to be a viable organization. Millennials and GenZ don’t care about you and you have thrown your old fans under the bus to be WOKE. Bye NASCAR, it was nice knowing you. In 5 years or less you won’t be racing anywhere.

  12. Avatar

    Yes, there should be consequences. And guess what – there already are. All those new fans? – Gone. For the rest of America NASCAR is now either hopelessly racist or hopelessly fake and pandering. Al Sharpton is working hard to convince as many as possible that NASCAR is racist, and he has plenty of support. Many others have written NASCAR off as fake and pandering – willing to castigate it’s own participants and officials as dastardly racists, all in the hope of cashing in on the protests against systemic racism. That perhaps is the worst consequence, the perception (real or imagined) that NASCAR was willing to sell out its own fans, officials, and participants, while simultaneously attempting to shamelessly profit by co-opting the BLM protests. In once fell swoop, NASCAR has managed to literally offend everyone of all cultural heritage or political persuasion. That is an impressive amount of fail.

    Of course, there is at least one more consequence. Lost trust. It’s going to take a while to earn that back.

    • Avatar

      AMEN! And you mentioned brilliantly MoparJeff that people are just tired and mad being called racist when they are not! That is racism in itself. The lazy and easy narrative to heap on someone who doesn’t buy the lemonade that is being sold at the “hate whitey” booth and the other lies being throw around in a hectic and manic manner. Alot of weak people with no courage to think, trust their instincts, learn, look it up, do you own homework etc! Strange times. There is a huge corporate and Soros funded cabal out there with big names promoting this bs, and the very weak minds are lapping it up like a cat with a bowl of cream. Scary times. Good posts from you!

  13. Avatar

    Did ANYBODY really look at the picture NASCAR produced? That picture has a wall behind it showing it was an end stall. The garage is wide open from one end to the other and you can see Bubba’s car was in stall 4 and open air on either side of it. There are no dividers in between the cars. Nice try Noosecar, I’m not buying this CYA picture

    • Avatar

      Amen! They put this BS out! Amazingly but not surprising their cohorts in crime are spreddin’ the lie! We were amazed when we saw the BS pic and NASCAR statement! Angry to say the least, a understatement! What the hell is going on with this country! NASCAR is full of shit and spreads it proudly! IMO!