by Jenna Fryer
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 with sunset and rain showing no signs of stopping, the race was called off.
Wallace waited above his pit stand for NASCAR to make the decision and when the race called off, the festivities with his crew erupted. Wallace is in his first season driving for 23X1 Racing, a team owned by both Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.
He 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.
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.”
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 in its programs at Wallace’s insistence.
The FBI investigated and found that a noose was tied to the bridge end of the garage door and 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.