A community united by racing at Sonoma Raceway is trying to make sense of a divisive, racist message someone left on the grounds.
Sonoma Raceway General Manager Steve Page said an employee spotted a noose hanging from a tree Saturday morning.
“Piece of twine, probably there for a while, but somebody had fashioned it into a shape you can reasonably interpret to be a noose. (The employee) was understandably very upset about it,” Page said.
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He sent staff and tenants an email saying he is taking the incident very seriously and operates a facility that is welcoming to everyone.
“To have something like that show up on our property is disgusting,” Page said.
He reported the incident to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, and investigators say whoever is responsible could face a felony hate crime charge.
A Raceway tenant said to remember seeing the rope hanging from the tree about seven to eight years ago after crashing a model airplane. At the time, the rope was not tied in a noose.
“We take it seriously; that's why we're out there with the violent crimes unit,” sheriff's spokesman Orlando Rodriguez said. “Put every effort into making an ID on this.”
The investigation comes as the NASCAR community is rallying around driver Bubba Wallace. Fellow drivers and mechanics stood with an emotional Wallace, rejecting racism in Alabama Monday after a noose was found in his garage stall just days after NASCAR banned confederate flags at its events.
“It's not a race thing; it's about walking into an event and feeling uncomfortable. That's it,” said Wallace.
Back in Sonoma, people at the track say they won't feel comfortable until they get some answers about who is responsible.
“I can't imagine it's anyone that works here at the track. I think it's someone who is pissed off at NASCAR. This is a NASCAR track,” said Tom Fallon, Sonoma Raceway tenant.
According to a press release by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, authorities are reviewing surveillance video and authorities are investigating the incident alongside the FBI.
"We understand why this case is disturbing for many people," the Sheriff's Office said. "We take potential hate crimes very seriously and want everyone to feel safe in Sonoma County."
To read the full press release, click here.