The FBI has determined Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver on NASCAR's top circuit, was not the target of a hate crime after a noose was found in his garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway.
In a joint statement released Tuesday by the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Alabama and the FBI, officials said investigators have determined that the noose had been in the garage since at least October, well before Wallace's team was assigned to the stall last week.
"After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed," they added.
The noose, which NASCAR said was a garage door pull rope "fashioned like a noose," was found Sunday in Wallace's garage stall just weeks after he successfully led efforts to ban the Confederate flag from future NASCAR races.
In a statement, NASCAR said it was "thankful to learn that this was not an intentional racist act against Bubba."
"We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing," the organization added.
Speaking to CNN anchor Don Lemon Tuesday night, Wallace responded to critics on social media who alleged the noose was a hoax in light of the FBI's findings.
"I'm mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity and they're not stealing that away from me, but they're just trying to test that," Wallace said.
He went on to tell Lemon that he wasn't the one who reported the noose and that he was responding to the evidence that was presented to him by NASCAR President Steve Phelps Sunday night.
"I never seen the noose. I never reported it," he said. "Like I said, I was going to dinner."
Despite NASCAR referring to the noose as a garage door pull rope, Wallace emphasized that the rope that was found in the garage was a noose, even if it wasn't left there to target him.
"I’ve been racing all my life. We’ve raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that," he said. "Whether tied in 2019 or whenever, it was a noose. It wasn't directed at me, but somebody tied a noose. It was — it is a noose."
On Monday, federal authorities said they would investigate to determine "whether there are violations of federal law." The FBI sent 15 special agents to the Alabama speedway to conduct interviews and review evidence, but found no need to pursue federal charges in connection with the incident.
After the discovery of the noose, athletes outside of the sport, including NBA star LeBron James, spoke out in support of Wallace.
In solidarity, fellow NASCAR drivers pushed his car to the starting line of the race track Monday. After exiting his vehicle, Wallace broke down, resting his head on the top of the car.
"None of the allegations of being a hoax will break me or tear me down. Will it piss me off? Absolutely, but that only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up, to get back out on the race track next week ... and showcase what I can do behind the wheel under tremendous amounts of BS whatever it is you want to say," Wallace said during the interview with Lemon. "You won't break me. You won't tear me down."
On Wednesday, Wallace released an additional statement, thanking NASCAR and the FBI for investigating quickly and treating the noose "as a real threat."
"I think we'll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been," Wallace said. "Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday, and the progress we've made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all."