Talladega, Ala. (AP) — Bubba Wallace became the second black driver to win at NASCAR’s top Cup Series level after rain halted Monday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Wallace had gone through a crash and into the front of the field five laps before the second rain stop of the race. NASCAR tried to dry the track for about 45 minutes, but things closed as sunset approached and the rain showed no sign of closing.
Wallace waited atop his pit stand and celebrated wildly with his crew when the race was called. Wallace is in his first season driving for 23X1 Racing, a team owned by both Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.
Wallace cried after returning to his parked Number 23 Toyota. The car number was chosen for co-owner Jordan, who wore 23 in the NBA.
“This is for all the kids who want an opportunity and want to be the best at whatever they want to achieve, and be the best at what they want to do,” Wallace said as he shed tears. “You’re going to go through a lot (BS). But you always have to stick to your path and don’t let the bullshit get to you.
“Stay strong. Be humble. Stay hungry. There have been times when I wanted to give up.”
Wallace is the first black driver since Wendell Scott in 1963 to win at NASCAR’s elite cup level—a race in which he was not declared the winner for several months. NASCAR finally presented its trophy from that race to Scott’s family two months ago.
Bill Lester, a black driver who has intermittently started a truck series in NASCAR since 1999, congratulated Wallace at the start of the season.
“Finally, it’s official, you’ve done it!” he posted. “So proud of you and what you’ve accomplished. Your victory moved the @NASCAR needle on many fronts. Glad I was a witness.”
In Talladega in June 2020, NASCAR discovered a noose in a garage stall handed over to Wallace. The discovery came just a week after NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its events at Wallace’s insistence.
The FBI investigated and found that the noose was tied to the bridge end of the garage door and had been there for months, implying that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime. However, the entire industry rallied around him, and stood in solidarity with Wallace in his car at the front of the grid before the race.
Flag restrictions have been an issue in Talladega, where a convoy of vehicles has paraded up and down Speedway Boulevard outside the speedway’s main entrance on all four race weekends because NASCAR said it would allow the emblem inside its track. will not give The convoy was back this weekend and consisted of a car pulling a trailer that contained a Civil War-era cannon.
Wallace called the noose incident the low point of his life. He was subjected to nonstop online harassment, including a tweet from then-President Donald Trump last year that falsely accused Wallace of making a noose.
Wallace never saw the noose and was only told about it by NASCAR President Steve Phelps when the FBI was already called to investigate. He said he never thought about the importance of earning his first career Cup race at the same track in his native Alabama; He was born in Mobile.
“When you say it like this, it obviously brings a lot of emotion, a lot of joy to my family, fans, my friends. It’s great,” he said.
Wallace went into a makeshift victory lane inside an empty garage stall to celebrate with his 23XI Racing team. The organization was formed a year earlier and Wallace was the centerpiece of all the corporations that entered NASCAR in support of Wallace and his social justice efforts.
The 23XI will expand to two cars next season with former Series champion Kurt Busch joining the team.
Wallace’s win was his first in 142 career cups, although he had six wins in the Truck Series from 2013 to 2015.
No playoff drivers won the race at Talladega this weekend, and only Denny Hamlin has already advanced to the third round of the playoffs, advancing to next week’s elimination race in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Three-time Daytona 500 winner Hamlin celebrates with Wallace after finishing seventh.
“It’s a lot more emotional because I know how difficult it is. These guys have worked so hard over the last 10 months to put this team together,” Hamlin said. “We’re still in the early stages of our team. are in. We are still growing. We have some great things on the horizon. This is a great morale booster for everyone. “
Brad Keselowski finished second and was followed by a pair of Fords by Team Penske teammate Joey Logano. Bush was fourth at Chevrolet.
Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman and William Byrne are headed to Charlotte in danger of elimination.
The final race in the second round of the playoffs is at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Hybrid Road Course/Oval is where an area of 12 will be trimmed to eight. Chase Elliott is a two-time defending race winner at The Roval. His win last October was his first of three victories in the final five races that propelled Elliott to his first Cup championship.