Bubba Wallace gets first career win at Talladega

Bubba Wallace has his first NASCAR Cup Series win.

Wallace was winning when Ryan Preece got turned into the wall and triggered a multi-car crash with five laps to go in the second stage. Rain came just a few laps after the crash and NASCAR red-flagged the already rain-delayed race with 104 of 188 laps complete. With the race past the halfway point, Wallace was declared the winner just before 4:30 p.m. ET.

The win comes over a year after Wallace, the only Black driver racing full-time in NASCAR, was accidentally the central figure at Talladega for a reason that had nothing to do with racing in June of 2020. A noose knot was discovered on the garage door rope in Wallace’s garage door stall. Assuming the worst, NASCAR issued a statement condemning the actions of the alleged perpetrator and vowed to find whoever tied the knot. 

The next day, drivers followed Wallace as his car was pushed to the grid before the race in a show of solidary against the potential hate crime. But no hate crime had occurred. After NASCAR investigated the knot — and the FBI was even called in — it was determined that the knot had been in the garage rope since 2019. 

The knot was found in the weeks after Wallace had taken a stand against the Confederate flag’s presence at NASCAR races and had spoken out for social justice and racial equality in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its tracks just over a week before the knot was found on the garage rope and Wallace had driven a car with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on it the same day that NASCAR banned the flag. 

Wallace is just the second Black driver to win a Cup Series race. Until Monday, Wendell Scott was the only Black driver to win at NASCAR’s top level. Scott won at Jacksonville Speedway in 1964, though he wasn’t declared the winner of the race until hours after it was over. NASCAR officials blamed the late awarding of the win on a scoring error and Scott never got the trophy from that win before he passed away in 1990. NASCAR gave Scott’s family a replica of that trophy at Daytona in August. 

Wallace drives for car co-owned by Michael Jordan

Wallace is in his first season with 23XI Racing, a team co-owned by Michael Jordan and fellow Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin. The team was founded in the fall of 2020 and hired Wallace to drive the car. The startup team has experienced growing pains so far this season — Wallace’s Toyota hasn’t had the speed that the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have had — but Wallace has been fast at Talladega and Daytona. 

While the win obviously comes in somewhat fluky circumstances, Wallace isn’t a fluke winner at Talladega. He was up front for most of the rain-delayed race on Monday and has finished second twice at Daytona before. The win doesn’t rank on the NASCAR fluke win scale.

It’s also a victory that will reverberate in non-NASCAR circles. Wallace became one of the most well-known NASCAR drivers over the course of the 2020 season and that attracted mainstream sponsors like McDonald’s, DoorDash and Columbia to come aboard his car. 

Race results

1. Bubba Wallace

2. Brad Keselowski

3. Joey Logano

4. Kurt Busch

5. Christopher Bell

6. Chris Buescher

7. Denny Hamlin

8. Kevin Harvick

9. Austin Dillon

10. Anthony Alfredo

11. Erik Jones

12. Martin Truex Jr.

13. Ryan Blaney

14. Chase Briscoe

15. Cole Custer

16. Michael McDowell

17. Ricky Stenhouse

18. Quin Houff

19. Chase Elliott

20. Justin Haley

21. Ryan Newman

22. Corey LaJoie

23. Daniel Suarez

24. Landon Cassill

25. Joey Gase

26. Aric Almirola

27. Kyle Busch

28. Cody Ware

29. Garrett Smithley

30. BJ McLeod

31. Josh Bilicki

32. Ryan Preece

33. Ross Chastain

34. James Davison

35. Matt DiBenedetto

36. William Byron

37. Kyle Larson

38. Alex Bowman

39. Tyler Reddick

40. Justin Allgaier

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