NASCAR President Steve Phelps held a press conference on Thursday to detail the findings of an internal investigation into the rope he described as a noose found in the garage stall of No. 43 driver Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend. The organization also released a photo of the rope in question, which may have served as a garage door pull. Phelps said 10 other garages were found to have rope pulls, but none tied in a noose configuration.
“As you can see from the photo,” said Phelps, “the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba. With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family…We are proud to see so many stand up for what’s right.”
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Phelps admitted that his initial reaction could have been more nuanced, but said he was concerned for Wallace, who is the only black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. Wallace described Phelps as “in tears” when he initially told the driver about the noose. Concerns for Wallace’s safety have increased in the weeks since he advocated for NASCAR to eliminate the Conference flag from its events, which it did on June 10.
“Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. We’re living in a highly charged and emotional time. What we saw was a symbol of hate and was only present in one area of the garage and that was of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace,” Phelps said. “In hindsight, I should have used the word ‘alleged’ in our statement.”
Wallace has been criticized for being outspoken about the discovery of the noose and what it meant to him. Some even speculated that the driver had planted the noose himself to generate publicity. An FBI investigation debunked those theories, finding the rope had been attached to the garage door since at least October, which was months before Wallace occupied the stall.
“Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this,” Phelps explained. “Bubba Wallace has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity.”
Wallace posted a statement to social media earlier this week.
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