Waiting anxiously in a rain delay, Bubba Wallace joyfully cheered with his team once learning he had accomplished everything that he worked so hard for. A historic moment.
Wallace made history on Monday afternoon at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, becoming the first Black driver to win a Cup Series race since Wendell Scott scored his only victory in 1963.
The Alabama native spoke on what it meant to become the second Black driver to win the Cup Series race and his feelings were pure after becoming victorious in his 143rd career start.
“I never think about those things, and when you, when you say it like that, honestly it brings a lot of emotion, a lot of joy, to my family, fans, friends. It’s pretty damn cool,” Wallace said after the race.
There were seventy-one laps to go in the race when Wallace was leading the way by a comfortable margin, but rain showers were strong enough to call the event, declaring him the winner after 45 minutes of attempting to dry the track.
“Talladega, we’re winners,” Wallace added in a video posted on the Twitter account of Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway. “What a perfect weekend, or weekday, I should say. I just knew something about it.”
NBA legend and 23XI Racing co-owner, Michael Jordan congratulated Wallace on his win, knowing the amount of magnitude that was on display.
“I’m so happy for Bubba and our entire 23XI Racing team. This is a huge milestone and a historic win for us,” Jordan said in a tweeted statement. “From the day we signed him, I knew Bubba had the talent to win and Denny and I could not be more proud of him. Let’s go!”
Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced Wallace as its only driver earlier in the year, as 23XI Racing made its NASCAR Cup Series official debut at the Daytona 500 on February 14, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway.
Wallace shocked the sport of NASCAR last year when he announced he wouldn’t return to Richard Petty Motorsports for the following season.
“I appreciate Michael Jordan; I appreciate Denny for believing in me and giving me the opportunity. … It’s pretty fitting that it comes here at Talladega,” Wallace said.
Wallace is a name that has been on display not for just racing, and instead was at the forefront of getting the Confederate flags banned from racing, facing adversity on social media and from crowds.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. It starts with confederate flags,” Wallace said last year in an interview on CNN. “Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
In June 2020, NASCAR announced it was officially pulling the banner off its racetrack properties for good.
“There’ve been plenty of times when I wanted to give up. You surround yourself with the right people, and moments like this that you appreciate,” Wallace said after the win.
Wallace dealt with pain and a moment of shock just last year at the same track, when a noose was found in his garage stall, sparking an FBI hate-crime investigation.
The FBI determined Wallace was not a victim of a hate crime, stating the noose had been in the garage since at least 2019.
“It’s Talladega. It’s his home state. Everything that happened at Talladega last year. Things that Bubba didn’t ask to happen, but he had to go through it,” Hamlin said on the win.
The 23XI racer accomplished more than just winning a race, he showed the world he belonged while motivating others.
“This is for all the kids out there that want to have an opportunity and whatever they want to achieve and be the best at what they want to do,” Wallace said holding back tears. “You’re going to go through a lot of bulls—. But you always got to stick true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you.”
“It’s definitely been tough going to some of the tracks this year, we get some of the most boos now,” Wallace added. “Everybody says as long as they’re making noise that’s fine, but you know, I get booed for different reasons, and that’s the tough thing to swallow. I appreciate all those who were there doing the rain dance with us, pulling for us, supporting me my whole career, but especially those who have supported me with everything that’s gone on the last 15-16 months.”
Wallace emotionally broke down in tears once he returned to his parked No. 23 Toyota car, a number that will forever be well known in the sport of basketball and now NASCAR.
“Stay strong. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Been plenty of times when I wanted to give up,” Wallace said.