NASCAR on Thursday completed its investigation into the garage pull rope formed as a noose that was found in Bubba Wallace's garage at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, with president Steve Phelps saying "the noose was real" and "our initial reaction was to protect our driver."
NASCAR released a photo of the noose that was found in the garage of the No. 43 team.
On Tuesday, the FBI determined that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that the noose had been on that garage door since October 2019.
"Given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose," Phelps said Thursday. "Upon learning of seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. 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 -- that of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace.
"In hindsight, we should have -- 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. 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, NASCAR's only Black full-time driver, on Wednesday told ESPN's First Take that he was thankful that the noose wasn't intended for him, but he doesn't think the ensuing investigation was an overreaction.
Phelps said NASCAR conducted a thorough sweep of every garage area in all 29 tracks at which it races, a total of 1,684 garage stalls.
"We found only 11 total that had a pull-down rope tied in a knot, and only one noose -- the one discovered on Sunday in Bubba Wallace's garage," Phelps said.
Phelps said NASCAR determined that the noose wasn't in the garage prior to the October 2019 race weekend, but it was unable to determine "with any certainty who tied this rope in this manner, or why it was done.
"... Our ultimate conclusion for this investigation is to ensure that this never happens again -- that no one walks by a noose without recognizing the potential damage it can do," Phelps said.
The Wood Brothers Racing team was in the same stall during the October race and it cooperated with the investigation. An employee recalled "seeing a tied handle in the garage pull down rope from last fall."
"We could not determine whether it was someone on their team or someone else," Phelps said. "We have no idea what the intent was at all, whether there was any malice in it or whether it was just fashioned as a noose for a pulley. We don't know that."
Phelps said cameras will be added to garages moving forward. In addition, NASCAR will also require members of the industry to complete sensitivity and unconscious bias training.
NASCAR heads this weekend to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and will increase security around Wallace, who has received death threats and been accused of perpetrating a hoax.
"We need to keep Bubba safe. We need to keep a member of our family safe," Phelps said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.