Bubba Wallace Makes NASCAR History with Win at Talladega
Mother Nature did not cooperate with NASCAR's plans at Talladega this week. Rain forced the Cup Series race from Sunday to a rare Monday start. But just 3 laps shy of finishing Stage 2 and 71 laps short of completing the entire the race, the rain returned. Since it was over halfway, NASCAR officials called the race final. Per the official rules when this sometimes occurs from weather delays, the order that the cars were in when the caution was issued, is the final finish order. And with that call today, history was made.
Bubba Wallace was declared the winner of the YellaWood 500. It was his first Cup Series win, and only the second time in history that a Black driver has taken the checkered flag at the highest level of the sport. The first Black driver to win was Wendell Scott back in 1963.
In a post-race interview with NBC Sports, Wallace was reminded of this and the place he was taking in history with this victory. As he began to speak and his voice wobbled slightly with emotion, it was clear that the moment was not lost on him.
"Yeah, I never think about those things but when you say it like that, it obviously brings a lot of emotion, brings a lot of joy to my family, fans, friends. It's pretty cool. Just happy to be a winner in the Cup Series," he said.
Wallace humbly added, "I know a lot of history was made today which is really cool. But it's about my guys. It's about our team. It's about what we've done. I appreciate Michael Jordan, appreciate Denny for believing in me, giving me an opportunity. It's pretty fitting it comes here at Talladega."
The Mobile, Alabama, native who is now driving for the new race team owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, 23XI Racing, was referencing not only winning in his home state, but acknowledging the dark events that surrounded last year's Talladega race when a noose was found in the garage area. In the immediate aftermath of that dark discovery, the race went on but as the drivers took the track ahead of the green flag, they all did so, marching in solidarity behind Wallace. He's spoken up many times about increasing diversity both on the track and in the stands, taking NASCAR forward in a more inclusive direction for all. Wallace is aware he's a role model, and he understands the significance of this win at this track.
"This is for all those kids out there that want to have an opportunity in whatever they want to achieve and be the best at whatever they want to do… You always gotta stay true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you. Stay humble, stay strong, stay hungry. Plenty of times where I wanted to give up. You surround yourself with the right people and it's moment's like this that you appreciate," he said with a few tears rolling down his cheeks.
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