NASCAR released a photo Thursday of the rope found in Bubba Wallace’s garage on Sunday and said it was “real.”
The photo release comes two days after the FBI concluded that Wallace, the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s best series, was not a victim of a hate crime as the “shaped garage door cord lasso “had been placed there since early as last fall
“This was obviously long before the 43rd team’s arrival and the garage assignment,” NASCAR said in its own statement Tuesday, referring to Wallace’s number of cars. “We appreciate the FBI’s prompt and thorough investigation and are grateful to know that this was not an intentional and racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Thursday: “As you can see in the photo, the rope was real, as was our concern for Bubba.”
In a conference call with reporters, Phelps said: “Based on all the videos and photographic evidence and all the interviews, we couldn’t determine who created the rope.”
He added: “I know that is unsatisfactory. I wish there was more we could do, but we cannot, so we have closed this matter.”
Phelps said that upon learning and seeing the knot, NASCAR’s initial reaction “was to protect our driver.”
“We are living in a very emotional and charged time,” said Phelps. “What we saw was a symbol of hatred and it was only present in one area of the garage and that was Bubba Wallace’s 43 car.”
Phelps said that after the discovery of the knot at the garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on Sunday, authorities asked each racetrack to walk through their respective garages.
Of the 1,684 garage positions on 29 tracks, only 11 had a deployable rope tied in a knot. The only one to get a rope was discovered on Sunday at garage number 43, Phelps said.
The FBI investigation determined that the rope had been ranked No. 4 in the Cup Series garage, that it had been assigned to Petty No. 43 team last weekend, since at least last October and that it had not been they would file federal charges, Phelps said.
He said Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with it.
“Bubba Wallace has done nothing more than represent this sport with courage, class and dignity,” said Phelps. “It is offensive to see someone suggest otherwise, and frankly, it is further proof of how far we still have to go as a society.”
The day after the FBI released its findings, Wallace said on the “TODAY” program that he was relieved but frustrated by the reaction to the investigation’s findings.
“I was relieved like many others to know it was not directed at me,” Wallace said on the show Wednesday. “But it’s still frustrating knowing that people are always going to test you and always try to discredit you and that’s what I’m trying to understand now.”
He said that some people were mistakenly suggesting that he was the person who found and reported the rope, when in fact that was not the case. He also emphasized that the rope was made like a bow. The image of him “makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up,” she said.
Wallace has said that the NASCAR president first informed him of the rope.
The rope was found less than two weeks after NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races and properties on June 10, saying it was “contrary to our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry”.
Wallace had called for the policy change. He drove a car with a message from Black Lives Matter in the race after the ban.
Dustin Long contributed