Wallace described the emotions — relief, frustration, anger — he has experienced in the three days since the story became the topic of a national conversation.
“I was relieved, just like many others, to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me, but it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try to debunk you,” Wallace told the “Today” show’s Craig Melvin. “That’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now, from saying I’m a fake and all this stuff, and that I reported it when it was information that was brought to me.”
Wallace said he never saw the door pull, which had been fashioned into a noose for the garage door at Talladega Superspeedway, and did not report it himself. NASCAR officials told him about it and announced Sunday that it was investigating the discovery. The story exploded nationally before the completion of the GEICO 500 race Monday and Wallace’s interpretation was called into question, even though he was not directly involved.
“When I did find out, I was very adamant about searching all the garages and making sure this wasn’t a garage pull and it ended up being one. The photo images that I’ve seen and that I have in my possession of what was in our garage is exactly a garage pull. It is. That is a noose,” Wallace said. “I don’t know when we’ll get to the point to release that image, but anybody that sees it, it’s alerting. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up for sure.”
The FBI concluded that Wallace was not the target of a hate crime and that no federal charges were warranted, but for 48 hours, the incident rattled stock-car racing and the nation. The FBI determined that the noose had been there since at least October 2019 and that “nobody could have known” that Wallace’s team would be assigned to that stall.
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week,” U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent Johnnie Sharp said in a statement after interviews by 15 FBI special agents and a review of the facts. “The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019.”
The discovery started a vigorous, polarizing debate, one that Wallace found himself pulled into even though he was, as he put it Wednesday, “on the sidelines.”
“The two conversations I had with the FBI — I never thought I’d talk to the FBI in my lifetime so, hey, there’s always something new — the first one [conversation] was after the race and they said they were going to do everything in their power to figure it out and they’d be in contact,” Wallace said.
“The second conversation was the final one to where they gave me the lowdown on the investigation and all the research they had completed and found out that it was a garage pull, but it was in fact a noose,” he said. “It was not a functioning noose, but it was a noose.”
Wallace told CNN Tuesday night that he was angry that the FBI’s finding is causing people to question his integrity, with some comparing him to Jussie Smollett, the actor who has been indicted on a charge of falsely claiming that he was attacked in Chicago by two strangers who beat him, doused him in bleach and tied a rope around his neck.
“I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity,” Wallace said. He added, “It was a noose. Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So it wasn’t directed at me, but somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying.”
Wallace vowed to use the incident for motivation. “This will not break me, none of the allegations of being a hoax will break me or tear me down,” he said, adding, “It will p--- me off, absolutely. But that only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up."
NASCAR’s own investigation will continue, it said in a statement, and will focus on why the noose, which it described as “a garage pull rope fashioned like a noose,” was in a garage stall in the first place.
“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps told reporters in a conference call. “It was disturbing to hear it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI definitively that there was not a hate crime.”
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