A federal investigation has been launched into the person(s) responsible for leaving a noose in the garage stall occupied by the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 driven by Bubba Wallace—the only full-time Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The incident took place at some point on Sunday during the rain delay that eventually postponed the GEICO 500.
NASCAR has launched an investigation and is working with the Birmingham, Alabama, branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
While the person(s) responsible has yet to be identified, NASCAR president Steve Phelps conducted a media teleconference before the race on Monday afternoon to detail the timeline of events leading up to the official opening of an investigation.
“As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR,” Phelps said in his opening remarks. “This act only strengthens our resolve to make this sport open and welcoming to all.”
NASCAR vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said the sport was “in a better place” as a result of the banning of the Confederate flag.
A majority of drivers have spoken out in support of that decision.
“Late yesterday afternoon a crew member from the 43 team discovered a noose in the No. 43 garage stall,” Phelps said. “That crew member informed NASCAR. NASCAR security got involved. I got a small group of senior leaders in the sport at NASCAR together to try to determine what the next steps would be.
“First thing was to launch an immediate investigation into this heinous act. As part of that, we this morning at 7:30 notified the Birmingham office of the FBI. They are currently on-site. They’ve started their investigation.”
The No. 43’s team owner, legendary seven-time champion Richard Petty, flew into Talladega overnight to attend his first race since the coronavirus pandemic began. He offered the following statement before the race began.
“I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team,” Petty said. “There is absolutely no place in our sport or our society for racism. This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change.
“The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed, and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR. I believe in my heart this despicable act is not representative of the competitors I see each day in the NASCAR garage area. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba, yesterday, today, tomorrow and every day forward.”
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