Bubba Wallace Grabs Historic First Cup Series Victory at Talladega

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 04: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald's Toyota, is congratulated on the grid by Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, (R) after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Racing, especially at superspeedways, is all about drivers placing themselves in the right place at the right time. For Bubba Wallace and his 23XI Racing team, Monday was the day it all came together, in his home state, no less.

Sweet Home Alabama, one could say.

Wallace was leading when the rains came near the end of Stage 2. The race was red-flagged, and intermittent showers prevented the track from being successfully dried. Considering that the race was beyond the minimum required distance, the race was declared official.

With the win, Wallace became the first African-American driver to win in NASCAR’s premier series since Wendell Scott’s victory in Jacksonville, Florida, in December of 1963.

Wallace told NBC’s Marty Snider following the race, “Man, I’m just so proud of everyone at 23XI [Racing], new team, getting a win late in the season…I know a lot of history was made today I believe; but it’s about my team, it’s about what we’ve done. It’s pretty fitting that it comes at Talladega.”

Talladega was the venue where the NASCAR community rallied around Wallace following reports of a pull rope for Wallace’s garage stall being tied like a noose. The moment was incomparably emotional for Wallace and proved to be an influential moment for the sport throughout the 2020 season.

Regarding the history made today, Wallace tearfully said, “Well, I never think about those things but when you say it like that [referencing Scott’s history-making win], it brings a lot of emotion and joy to my family, fans, friends. It’s pretty damn cool. I’m just proud to be a winner in the Cup Series.”

Not only was it Wallace’s first Cup Series win and the first win for an African-American competitor in NASCAR’s top division in nearly 60 years, it was the first victory for NBA legend Michael Jordan and future NASCAR Hall of Famer Denny Hamlin as team owners of 23XI Racing.

Hamlin stated regarding the difference in between winning as a team owner versus as a driver, “It’s way more emotional because I know how difficult it is. I know these guys have worked so hard over the last ten months putting this team together. It’s great to see the results of all [their] hard work…it means so much.”

Wallace’s victory and its impact cannot be understated in what is expected to be a predominant storyline across the sporting landscape. Wallace’s victory and its impact cannot be understated in what is expected to be a predominant storyline across the sporting landscape. For those who would foolishly believe the win is belittled by the race being shortened due to weather, each of the teams knew the weather situation would be in flux throughout the day. The driver would have to put himself in a position to capitalize.

Wallace undoubtedly did just that, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Written by Greg Atkins

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