NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s father has spoken out after images were released of the suspected noose in his garage that was determined by the FBI not to be a hate crime.
‘We’ve had to jump through a lot of hurdles and put up with a lot of stuff — from when he was nine years old, up until today,’ Darrell Wallace Sr told CBS This Morning on Friday.
Darrell grew emotional while recounting Monday’s show of solidarity at Talladega, where all the drivers joined together to push Bubba’s car to the front of the line after NASCAR claimed a noose had been found in a garage.
The FBI determined that the loop of rope resembling a hangman’s knot had been hanging as a garage door pull in Bubba’s car stall since last year, long before he was assigned the spot.
Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, wears a ‘I Can’t Breathe – Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt under his fire suit in solidarity with protesters
Bubba Wallace’s father Darrell Wallace Sr grew emotional in an interview as he discussed the outpouring of support the race car driver has received after believing he’d seen a ‘noose’
Bubba Wallace celebrates with his mom Desiree Wallace after winning the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Truck Series auto race in 2014
‘They had his back. Everybody there has his back,’ Darrell said of the support the other drivers showed his son. ‘It’s a proud moment.’
The father said he was overwhelmed by the sight of other drivers pushing Bubba’s car, as NASCAR legend Richard Petty attended to embrace the young driver, who is the only full-time black driver in NASCAR.
‘I texted to my family, “Who’s chopping onions?” Because they was texting, everybody was crying,’ he said.
Bubba was nine when his cousin Sean Gillespie, 19, was fatally shot in May 2003 by a Knoxville police officer who believed his cell phone was a gun. The officer was later cleared of wrongdoing in connection with the shooting.
The uproar over the ‘noose’ incident followed Bubba’s successful campaign to get NASCAR to ban the Confederate battle flag at its events.
His father said it was ‘the right thing to do’ and noted people were ‘uncomfortable’ with the flag, himself included.
‘There’s only one flag I stand for, and so yeah, I’m uncomfortable with the flag, and if you’re with me and you’re uncomfortable with the flag, then I’m uncomfortable too,’ he said.
NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch, left, and Corey LaJoie, right, join other drivers and crews as they push the car of Bubba Wallace to the front of the field prior to the starting line on Monday
Bubba Wallace takes a selfie of himself and of other drivers who had pushed his car to the front in the pits at Talladega Superspeedway before the NASCAR Cup Series auto race
The father said that Bubba has ‘been having sleepless nights’ after he was told of the rope found in his garage.
‘I just see how it’s weighing down on him and wearing him out,’ he said.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said cameras will now be added to garages, and NASCAR will require members of the racing association to complete sensitivity and unconscious bias training.
On Monday, NASCAR and the FBI both launched investigations into the matter, which revealed that the rope was previously used in the same stall by a white driver, Paul Menard, in 2019. Footage from earlier years showed similar garage door pulls being used by other drivers, although none can be described, exactly, as a ‘noose.’
According to US Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent Johnnie Sharp Jr., nobody could have known that Wallace would be assigned that specific stall prior to last weekend’s race.
NASCAR has released a photo of the suspected ‘noose’ found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega on Sunday that was investigated by the FBI as a possible hate crime before being revealed to be a garage door pull rope that had been in use for at least a year
A Youtube video from 2019 showed a pull rope featuring a noose (circled) hanging from the garage door in the same stall used by Wallace and his team at Talladega earlier this week. At the time the video was taken, it was being used by a white driver, Paul Menard
Circuit officials questioned representatives from every NASCAR track to learn exactly how many garage door pull-down ropes were tied in a similar manner. Of the 1,684 stalls across 29 tracks, only 11 had knotted pull-down ropes, and just one of those had been fashioned into a noose – the one in Wallace’s stall – according to NASCAR.com.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS SURROUNDING ‘NOOSE’ FOUND IN BUBBA WALLACE’S GARAGE
- June 9 – Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only black full-time driver on its top circuit, calls on the sport to permanently ban the Confederate flag
- June 10 – NASCAR bans the Confederate flag at all races after 70 years
- June 21 – Ahead of the scheduled start of the GEICO 500 in Alabama, a Confederate flag is flown over the Talladega track while a caravan of protestors drive rebel banners back and forth in front of the entrance
- June 21 – After the race is postponed by rain, someone from Wallace’s team discovers the suspected noose in his garage stall
- June 21 – NASCAR confirms the discovery of the ‘noose’
- June 22 – The FBI launches an investigation into the suspected hate crime
- June 22 – All 39 other NASCAR drivers rally in support of Wallace ahead of the GEICO 500 restart, collectively pushing his No. 43 car to the front of the grid in a show of solidarity
- June 23 – The FBI reveals that the suspected ‘noose’ is a garage door pull-down rope that had been in use for at least a year
- June 24 – Wallace praises the FBI for its investigation and says he is ‘relieved’ that he was not the target of a racist gesture
- June 25 – NASCAR releases a picture of the garage door pull, showing a long length of rope fashioned into a loop with one end coiled around the knot
- June 25 – NASCAR reveals that of the 1,684 garage stalls across its 29 tracks, only 11 had knotted pull-down ropes, and just one of those had been fashioned into a noose – the one in Wallace’s stall
It is not clear who tied the rope that way or when that person did so. A Talladega Superspeedway spokesman did not return the Daily Mail’s requests for comment.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps did release a statement Thursday to explain the decision to report the rope to the FBI as a ‘noose.’
‘Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver,’ Phelps said. ‘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.
‘As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba’ Phelps continued.
‘With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family – our NASCAR family – because they are part of the NASCAR family too. We were proud to see so many stand up for what’s right.’
Wallace, who did not discover the noose and wasn’t the person who reported it to NASCAR or the FBI, faced criticism for the misunderstanding on Wednesday, but described himself as ‘relieved’ that it was not intended as a racist threat.
‘I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been,’ he said in a statement.
Wallace told NBC that he was actually suspicious the suspected noose was, in fact, a garage door pull-down rope, so he went looking for others to see if they were tied in a similar fashion.
‘When I did find out, I was adamant about searching all the other garages and making sure that this wasn’t a garage pull, and it ended up being one,’ he told NBC on Wednesday.
As for his mistaken belief that the rope was a racist message sent from an anonymous antagonist, Wallace defended himself Wednesday by telling CNN that a ‘straight-up noose’ was found in his garage.
‘The photo evidence that I’ve seen, that I have in my possession, of what was in our garage, is exactly a garage pull, it is, that is a noose,’ he said before NASCAR released the photograph. ‘I don’t know when we get to the point to release that image, but anybody sees it, it’s alerting and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up for sure.’
He went on to say that he is ‘p****d’ with his critics who are using the incident to minimize accusations of racism within the sport.
Before the FBI halted its investigation, all 39 other NASCAR drivers rallied in support of Wallace at Monday’s restart, collectively pushing his No. 43 car to the front of the grid in a show of solidarity.
In this October 2017 shot, several similar ropes are seen being used in the Talladega garages
Wallace, an Alabama native, became overwhelmed with emotion and fought back tears as his car owner, NASCAR legend Richard Petty, gave him a hug in the moments before the race began.
By Tuesday, the FBI investigation found that the item – which is described in a NASCAR statement as a ‘garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose’ – had been there since 2019.
Wallace stressed that he remains thankful for the outpouring of support he received before Monday’s restart in Alabama from both his NASCAR rivals and his fans.
‘Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday, and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all.’