NASCAR had been without an African-American winner in the sport since Wendell Scott did it in 1963.
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., became the second Black winner in the sport after rain at an opportune time found the 23XI driver in the lead when NASCAR brought the cars down pitroad.
Weather and impending darkness led to the race being called early marking history for Wallace and NASCAR.
But it wasn’t just that long ago, at Talladega Superspeedway no less, that the entire NASCAR Cup garage rallied around Wallace for the incident in the garage a year ago.
For the uninitiated, a rope, fashioned as a noose that was later found to be used earlier in the year as a pull rope upon FBI investigation, sent waves through NASCAR.
Drivers rallied around the sports only Black driver then.
Now, he’s a winner in the top series.
When news broke that he was joining a team co-owned by fellow competitor Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan at 23XI Racing, social media lit up that he didn’t deserve the racing seat and that he hadn’t won in the top series of NASCAR.
However, Wallace didn’t shy away from anything that came his way.
“Yeah, I was one of those people that was telling myself that I haven’t won,” Wallace said during post race media availability. “It’s tough to kind of get out of that mentality. It’s like, man, you just want to go out and compete and win. It just so happened today.”
Wallace says that he appreciates everybody in his camp that helped him stay focused on the things that matter.
Throughout 2020 and now, Wallace has been classified to be an ambassador for the African American community and NASCAR but he says that he’s just going out to do what he’s got to do.
“I just want to go out and compete and win races and be here talking to you like this,” Wallace said. “What allows me to do that is just focusing on the task at hand, which is the race. That’s how I continue to kind of go about it.”
The win wasn’t the only time that Wallace won in NASCAR. Four years ago, Wallace won at Michigan in a truck race but now, being a winner at the Cup level is different.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m selfish. I’m like, Finally, I’m a winner again. It’s been four years, Michigan truck race. I’m a winner. I’m a winner at the Cup level. Hell, yeah, that’s what I’m saying,” Wallace said. “Then you think about everything else that follows suit with the history being made. There were a lot of firsts today within our team, within our organization. This is a really huge team effort. I’m so proud of everybody for continuing to just stick with it.”
NASCAR’s biggest point of emphasis is the Drive for Diversity program and Wallace is a graduate of the program. When asked how special it was to represent them, Wallace says that it’s really cool.
“The diversity program is continuing to shine,” Wallace said. “I still continue to say without that deal back in 2010, 2011, I don’t know if I would be here. I don’t know if I would be in the top three levels of our sport without that deal. Just got to keep on going, continue to watch the talent come up through.”