TALLADEGA — The FBI announced Tuesday night after completing their investigation that the noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage over the weekend at Talladega Superspeedway was not a targeted racial act or hate crime. The noose in question, according to the FBI’s findings, is a manual pulley mechanism used to shut the garage door, and had been hanging in the garage since at least October 2019. A joint statement released by US Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. outlined the results of the investigation:
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. 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. Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”
There were many conflicting feelings following the announcement from the FBI: diehard fans felt righteous, even vindicated, that their sport was not as (visibly) racist as everyone thought it was, while progressive fans felt conflicted about celebrating the performative actions NASCAR took in response to this, as well as confused as to why Garage Number 4’s manual door closer is the only one tied in a noose. As for NASCAR itself, President Steve Phelps was devastated.
“It’s a shame no matter what way you look at it,” Phelps said. “On the one hand, we’re obviously relieved that Bubba and his crew were not personally attacked and victims of a hate crime as a result of his race and recent activism. On the other hand, this was our first opportunity to handle a racist act the right way, so to have it be determined that there was no malice behind the noose really took the wind out of the whole organization’s sails.”
Baffled by the missed opportunity to use a car idiom instead of a boating one, we pressed Phelps to further elaborate on what he meant.
“NASCAR has a 72 year history, and it’s not a storied one. The entire concept was organized and later established by a group of bootleggers who rigged their cars to evade the police. So, combine that ‘rebel’ origin with the fact that most of our fans and racetracks are located in the South or rural communities…it’s no surprise that we don’t often attract the most forward-thinking groups of people. I mean, it’s 2020 and we have a, yes one, Black driver.”
“Aside from banning Confederate flags last week, this was our first real opportunity to make a statement on race that would be seen by people outside of our fanbase. We condemned the act, we did that ‘push Bubba Wallace’s’ car thing with all of our White people, we packaged the event up into a commercial and brand asset that we could use for profit. Hell, we even started production on a line of apparel with our new slogan that we just trademarked: ‘NASCAR. Not as racist as you think.’ So this was not just a blow to our moral sense of self, but also, and more importantly, our wallets.”
One group of fans you won’t see wearing these shirts, however, are NASCAR’s most loyal, some of whom rejoiced when the FBI findings were released to the public and took to Twitter to gloat and get the hashtag #BubbaSmollet trending:
But other fans were not as thrilled. We reached out to Clarence Smith for an interview via Zoom after seeing his email firstname.lastname@example.org in his Twitter bio.
“A lot of people are saying this is a great day. A great day for the TRUTH, and a great day for America as a whole,” replied Smith, who lives in Talladega year round. “All I heard about for the last 2 days was that NASCAR is racist, and NASCAR fans are ignorant rednecks spread by the FAKE NEWS MAINSTREAM MEDIA. But the real truth of the matter is that we need to draw up a new plan to get the wrong types of drivers out of our sport.” Concerned but feeling the need to hear him explicitly say it, we pressed on.
“You see this?” he asked, pointing to a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag he has displayed on his wall, “this is a reminder that in this country, we don’t let the big guys override our liberties and the TRUTH. And you see this?” he said, now taking his shirt off and revealing a chest tattoo of the Confederate Flag, “THIS serves as a reminder of what my great granddaddy fought for and what holds this country together: state rights and civil liberty to those who EARN IT.”
“And how about this??” he yelled, pulling out a white Ku Klux Klan hood and putting it over his head, “THIS is what I call my Truth Cloak, kinda like that invisibility one in the Harry Potters,” which he explained he watched to learn more about the witches that align themselves with the liberal left. “THIS is what I wear to remind myself of what I know is RIGHT, and keep alllll that other bullshit outta my head. CNN? MSNBC? All of it is garbage. The only news I watch is Tucker Carlson, because ya can’t spell Carlson without car.”
Scared of what he might pull out next, we thanked Smith for his time and ended our Zoom call early. But, he followed up with us over email afterward, saying, “Look, NASCAR is about races, and in my eyes, there’s only one race that should be winning these races. You think about that.”
The Pocono Organics 150 is this Saturday on FS1.