Declaring “the noose was real,” NASCAR officials on Thursday released a photo of the rope found in the garage stall of black driver Bubba Wallace that prompted a federal investigation, per the AP. The incident has put racism front and center for the stock car series that two weeks ago banned the Confederate flag from its venues and races at Wallace's urging. It also prompted criticism from some fans that NASCAR had somehow overreacted. “As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba," NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “Based on the evidence we had, we thought our drivers—that one of our drivers had been threatened. ... It’s our responsibility to react and investigate, and that’s exactly what we did.” He added, "In hindsight, we should have—I should have—used the word 'alleged' in our (initial) statement.
NASCAR asked officials at every track to check their garages this week. NASCAR said out of 1,684 garage stalls at 29 tracks, only 11 had a garage door pull-down rope tied in a knot. The only one fashioned in a noose was the one discovered Sunday by a crew member in Wallace’s No. 43 garage stall. NASCAR moved quickly and by Monday, FBI agents were at the track. On Tuesday, authorities said the rope had been hanging there since last fall and thus was not a hate crime targeting the 26-year-old Wallace. Phelps said NASCAR determined the noose was not in place when the October 2019 race weekend began but was created at some point during that weekend. “We were unfortunately unable to determine with any certainty who tied this rope in this manner or why it was done.” Cameras were being added to garages. (Read more Bubba Wallace stories.)