It wasn’t about avoiding a collision and driving to the front at Talladega Superspeedway. Bubba Wallace was just a natural instinct.
The challenge came 45 minutes after Wallace had taken the lead. When the sky opened, Wallace sat in the rain hoping, wishing and praying that NASCAR would cancel Monday’s race and declare him the winner.
A crowd of people gathered around his pit stand, cheering his support, one man said to his 6-year old son that he was “witnessing History”. NASCAR pulled the plug on Wallace, making him the first Black driver to win a Cup Series race.
Wallace, who was a first-time Cup winner from his 143 starts, said that he now has some credibility. “It’s like I’m finally a winner and I won the Cup level,” said Wallace. It’s a tremendous weight off my shoulders.
This was more than a win.
Wallace is the first Black driver at the top of the elite stock car series. He won it in 1963. This was a race that Buck Baker had won the trophy, but Wallace was not declared the winner. NASCAR finally presented Scott’s trophy from that race two month ago.
“You can’t swim standing up on the Bank!” tweeted “!,” Warrick Scott Sr. who is Scott’s great-grandson. “RIP Wendell Scott. Congratulations @bubbawallace “Thank you!” Another posted showed his grandfather leaning against the car. It read: “PaPa was there all the time chilling in rain.”
The Wallace win was praised by rapper Big Sean, the University of Tennessee football club and Bill Lester. Bill Lester was a Black driver who raced in NASCAR intermittently from 1999 through a Trucks Series season this season.
Lester wrote, “Finally it’s official. You’ve done it!” Your win is a huge step forward for @NASCAR on many fronts. Glad to have been a witness.
The race was highlighted on NBC’s Nightly News at the top Monday’s broadcast. This highlights how culturally significant Wallace’s win for NASCAR, a predominantly white sport with deep Southern roots, and a longtime embrace Confederate symbols.
Wallace didn’t want the moment to be about Wallace’s first career win. But he couldn’t ignore its significance.
Wallace stated that it was difficult to go to certain tracks this year and they get the most boos. Everyone says that as long as they make noise, that’s fine. But, you know, I get bashed for different reasons, and that’s hard to swallow. I am grateful to all of those who supported me throughout my career, including those who did the rain dance, pulled for us, and especially those who have supported us over the past 15-16 months.
NASCAR found a noose inside Wallace’s garage stall in Talladega on June 2020. This discovery came only a week after NASCAR had at Wallace’s request banned the Confederate Flag from its events.
The FBI investigated the matter and determined that the noose had been tied at the end the garage door pull. It had been there for several months. This means that Wallace was not a victim to a hate crime. The series stood by Wallace and supported him at the front of grid before the race.
Talladega continues to have flag issues. Since NASCAR banned the flag, a convoy of cars has been marching up and down Speedway Boulevard in front of the main entrance since then. This weekend, the convoy returned with one car pulling a trailer containing a Civil War-era cannon.
Wallace called the incident with the noose a low point. He’s been subject to harassment online, including a tweet last year from Donald Trump in which he falsely accused Wallace for creating the noose. Many people have accused Wallace of orchestrating a hoax, even though he never saw the noose or was told about it only by Steve Phelps, NASCAR President.
Social media was abuzz with hateful comments about Wallace, a 27-year-old native of Alabama, who was born later this week.
“They are just haters. Denny Hamlin is Wallace’s co-owner and fellow driver. I try to tell him that you shouldn’t be trying to prove people wrong. Instead, find your motivation by doing the right thing for those who support you.
Hamlin stated, “That’s where motivation comes from. It’s the people who are going to support your through the good and bad times.”
After a crash, Wallace drove to the front of his field for five laps prior to the second rain interruption. After he surged to front and the field realized that rain could stop the race at any moment, Brad Keselowski, the runner-up, recognized Wallace had probably just won it with his pass.
“I was thinking, “Oh, geez. Keselowski stated, “I wish I would have made this move.” “(His) was a good move at the right moment.”
NASCAR attempted to dry the track for almost 45 minutes but was unsuccessful. As sunset approached, the rain continued unabated.
Wallace was waiting on his pit stand, and he celebrated with his crew when the decision was made. Wallace is currently in his first season with 23X1 Racing, which is owned by Michael Jordan and Hamlin.