Bubba Wallace extended the history of African-Americans in the sport of auto racing today, and it only took 143 career starts.
The driver of Jordan’s 23XI Racing car, his “Airness” Michael Jordan’s team, won his first career race on Monday by capturing the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Today's victory is official! pic.twitter.com/J0m5oRLsGI
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 4, 2021
The win came on a rain-soaked 2.66-mile tri-oval track where the Mobile, Alabama, native was in the lead before the Round of 12 playoffs race was shortened to from 188 laps to 117.
On lap 116, Ryan Preece, William Byron, and Matt DiBenedetto wrecked, just before the second stoppage of the race, which had postponed from Sunday because of inclement weather. Wallace who already had a driven through an earlier crash, made it to the front of the field five laps from the end on lap 113.
For the first time in @NASCAR history, we had first-time winners in Cup, @XfinityRacing, and @NASCAR_Trucks on the same weekend at the same track.@tate_fogleman, @brandonbrown_68, and @BubbaWallace get it done at @TALLADEGA! #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/AdEeTeKJxV
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 4, 2021
NASCAR attempted to dry the track for 45 minutes after the second stoppage, but called it off as the rain did not look to stop and darkness was approaching at Talladega Superspeedway, which has no track lights for nighttime racing. Wallace, waiting at his pit stand when the race was called, celebrated ecstatically with his crew.
Because the race was past the halfway point of the 188 laps, or lap 94, when it was called off, enough laps had been run to certify it as complete. The win is the second NASCAR Cup Series race for an African-American. Hall of Famer Wendell Scott first accomplished the feat in 1963.
— Sean Don (@BigSean) October 4, 2021
“I never think about those things,” said Wallace when asked about being the first African-American to win in almost 58 years. “When you say it like that it obviously brings a lot of emotion, a lot of joy to my family, fans, friends. It’s pretty damn cool. Just proud to be a winner in the Cup Series.”
In Wendell Scott’s historic race, he wasn’t declared the winner until several hours after it was over. Egregiously, NASCAR presented Scott’s family with his trophy from that race just two months ago.
Scott was a Danville, Virginia, native that became a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Scott passed away in late 1990 at the age of 69. However, his legacy continues to be felt in NASCAR today, as he was the first Black driver to race full time in the NASCAR premier series and the first to win a race.
In 1963 Wendell Scott became the first black Nascar driver to win a cup race he wasn’t even allowed to receive the trophy Bubba presented it to his family THIS YEAR(58 years later) Bubba’s win is MONUMENTAL pic.twitter.com/NLrZDi1uct
— Sir Juicy Smullétt (@juicysmulliett) October 4, 2021
Scott served in World War II for three years as a motor pool mechanic, a trade he pursued after returning home and opening his auto repair shop. According to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Scott supplemented his income by working as a taxi driver and hauling moonshine in his native Virginia.
However, there are other Black pioneers in Racing.
Bill Lester is a Black driver who raced full time in NASCAR from 2002 to 2006 in the Trucks Series. He tweeted his exuberance at Bubba Wallace’s historic victory.
“Finally, it’s official, you’ve done it!” he posted. “So proud of you and what you’ve accomplished. Your win moves the @NASCAR needle forward on so many fronts. Glad I was a witness.”
Bubba’s In Good Hands
It was the 31st start for 23XI Racing, the team co-owned by Jordan and Denny Hamlin.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) October 4, 2021
Hamlin is an American professional car racing driver for Joe Gibbs Racing who drives the No. 11 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Cup Series. Hamlin also drives part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving the No. 54 Toyota Supra.
The win came during Wallace’s first year with 23XI Racing.