No charges will be brought over a noose found hanging in the garage of an African-American NASCAR driver after it emerged it had been there since October.
The FBI launched an investigation after the rope was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at the Talladega circuit in Alabama on Sunday.
Wallace, the sport’s only full-time African-American driver, had called the discovery a “despicable act of racism and hatred”.
But in a statement on Tuesday, US authorities said an investigation had concluded “no federal crime was committed”.
Video evidence had revealed the noose had been in the garage as early as October 2019 and “nobody could have known Mr Wallace would be assigned” to the stall, according to joint statement from US attorney Jay E Town and FBI special agent Johnnie Sharp Jr.
NASCAR said the FBI had concluded Wallace “was not the target of a hate crime” and the item was “a garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose”.
The motor sport body added that it was “thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba”.
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The Wood Brothers Racing team said one of its employees alerted the team on Monday that he recalled “seeing a tied handle in the garage pull down rope from last fall,” when NASCAR raced at Talladega in October.
The team said it immediately alerted NASCAR and assisted the investigation.
A crew member from Richard Petty Motorsports found the noose on Sunday and contacted the FBI, which sent 15 agents to the track to investigate.
The discovery came after Wallace had successfully pushed the racing car series to ban the Confederate flag at its venues less than two weeks ago.
It prompted some disgruntled fans with Confederate flags to drive past the main entrance to the Alabama race track prior to Sunday’s race.
A plane also flew above the track pulling a banner of the flag that read Defund NASCAR.
Wallace has yet to comment on the findings of the FBI’s investigation.
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Following the discovery of the noose, he posted a statement on social media in which he said “the despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened”.
Wallace said the incident “serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism”.
“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you’,” he wrote.
“This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”