After the FBI completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace "was not the target of a hate crime," the 26-year-old NASCAR driver spoke to CNN's Don Lemon and reacted to the news.
"I'm pissed," Wallace said. "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."
Last Sunday, a noose was found in Wallace's garage stall at the Alabama racetrack. The racer told Lemon NASCAR president Steve Phelps told him the news with "tears rolling down his face."
When asked if he'd seen "ropes like that hanging from garages," Wallace told Lemon the image he saw was "not a garage pull."
"It was a noose that, whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose," he later added. "So, it wasn't directed at me, but somebody tied a noose that's what I am saying. It is a noose."
The discovery came shortly after Wallace called to ban Confederate flags from NASCAR events, which the racing company ultimately agreed to do. A plane flying the Confederate flag with the words "Defund NASCAR" was spotted at Sunday's event.
NASCAR stated it was "angry and outraged" over the discovery and launched an investigation. On Tuesday, NASCAR revealed the FBI report and photographic evidence determined that "the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall."
"This was obviously well before the 43 team's arrival and garage assignment," the organization continued. "We appreciate the FBI's quick and thorough investigation and are 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."
During his interview with Lemon, Wallace said he stood by his previous statement that "this will not break me."
"None of the allegations of [it] being a hoax will break me or tear me down," he continued. "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 racetrack next week in Pocono and showcase what I can do behind the wheel under tremendous amounts of BS, whatever it is you want to say. It won't break me; it won't tear me down. Again, I will stand proud of where I'm at."
When asked if he was worried about backlash, Wallace suggested he was "used to it."
"The backlash will always be there," he said. "It doesn't matter if we provide 100 percent facts and evidence, photo evidence. People are going to photoshop it to make me look like the bad person at the end of the day. I will always have haters. I will always have the motivators to go out there and to try to dethrone me from the pedestal that I am on."
"For all the kids that are watching and want to be in sports, just know that you will automatically be put on a pedestal whether you like it or not," he continued. "That's what happens when you have a voice and you have a platform. People are going to try to take that away from you with all their power. They will lose sleep over making sure you don't succeed. So, you have to be strong, always keep your head on a swivel and always watch your back, but always stand up for what's right."
He also reiterated he doesn't "feel alone" during this time, noting he's had "really good conversations" with a number of his fellow drivers. As fans will recall, many racers showed their support for Wallace on social media and pushed his No. 43 car down the track to the starting grid as the national anthem played ahead of last Monday's race. The words #IStandWithBubba were also painted on the field.
Watch the video to see Lemon's interview with Wallace.