Some Writers, Fans and Website Think NASCAR “Noose” Inside Job
The race is supposed to be run today, Monday, maybe not til Tuesday, due to rain. The Geico 500 was rained out Sunday, and most fans tuned away, and didn't hear about this incident right away. No mention of it was made during Fox Sports pre race coverage.
However, Sunday evening NASCAR released a statement saying that Sunday, presumably before the race began, a noose was found hanging in the garage stall area where NASCAR's only black driver, Bubba Wallace was assigned. NASCAR didn't say what time it was found, and no photos of the noose or area were provided. NASCAR issued a strong statement, which was echoed throughout the sports world by a number of athletes. Wallace drives the #43 car for Richard Petty Racing-Enterprises.
Wallace is an outspoken person, spurred on by his comments post-George Floyd, NASCAR banned the use of the Confederate flag at all NASCAR owned and sanctioned facilities, including pits, grandstands, etc. Wallace ran a Black Lives Matter car at the recent Bristol race.
While of course it's a heinous act, only one sportswriter pointed out that NASCAR will not have far to go in it's investigation. Eric Barrow of Deadspin.com pointed out that access to the garage area is even more limited now due to COVID. It is interesting to note that Barrow is a respected, aggressive writer, known for digging into stories, AND he is black.
No other writer has pointed out that it at least appears that somebody "inside" NASCAR was likely responsible.
Since the return of NASCAR a few weeks ago, NO fans have been allowed in what are called the "hot pit" or active area (usually passes are sold to watch cars go by or watch them worked on from behind a fence). No garage tours, either.
In fact, until last weekend, there haven't been fans in the stands. At Miami last week and Talladega this last weekend, trickles of fans were allowed in to watch the races, but nowhere near the pits.
Garage access has only been granted to team and car owners, crew chiefs and crew members, drivers, and a handful of track maintenance workers. Although there aren't cameras in each garage stall, every NASCAR track has enough to see the entire area. The garage stalls are not separated by walls, It's just one huge open building with painted lines to mark out each team's space. That's where teams work on their cars outside of the pits. They're also patrolled by security in the evening hours, and it's not uncommon for several teams to be up literally all night working on their cars.
So, Barrow rightly says it had to be some sort of inside job. According to Barrow and other sources, NASCAR and the FBI are viewing surveillance footage and examining teams comings and goings from sometime Saturday until the noose was discovered Sunday.
Very little information has been released by NASCAR other than to announce the noose was found, condemning it, and the launch of the investigation.
The incident has touched off a storm on racing social media pages. Hundreds of fans Sunday night began to refer to Wallace as "Bubba Smollett," in reference to the 2019 Jesse Smollet incident. In January, the actor claimed he was assaulted by two suspects wearing MAGA (Trump) hats and subjected to racial slurs etc. He was charged in February with false reporting, but later those charges were dropped after a plea deal.
These people claim because of very limited and tight garage access, no fans, it's a ploy by Wallace to make NASCAR look bad. However, others question that because trying to pull off such a 'stunt,' if not true, could end his driving career.
Either way, whomever did it has just made things a whole lot worse for a sport that in general has been on the decline for the last decade, and not done anything to help societal dialogue and issues either.