Darrell Bubba Wallace Jr. had already made history before he ever hopped into his No. 43 NASCAR vehicle and raced to a resounding second place finish in the 2018 Daytona 500.
Darrell Wallace Jr on Twitter
There is only 1 driver from an African American background at the top level of our sport..I am the 1. You’re not gonna stop hearing about “the black driver” for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey..
Hank Aaron had already given him a call to wish him the best of luck in the race. That one phone call exemplified the magnitude of Wallaces presence in a sport traditionally dominated by white males.
Hank Aaron called Bubba Wallace before his Daytona 500 race to wish him luck and support his groundbreaking achievement
As much as Wallace embraces his role in NASCAR as the “Great Black Hope,” he knows that nothing will gain him acceptance and credibility like actually winning. He came damn close on Sunday night.
With tears in his eyes and a pioneering spirit in his heart, Wallace defied all of the odds, checked all of his haters and nonbelievers and proved why he was signed by The King, Richard Petty to be one of the next faces of NASCAR.
A visibly emotional Wallace was praised and celebrated by the NASCAR community as his impressive finish erased any doubts that he would be one of the major personalities and unquestionable talents to lead NASCAR into the next era of motorsports at the highest level.
Bubba Wallace addresses media after finishing second in his inaugural Daytona 500 race
The fact that he is only the second African-American since Wendell Scott in 1971 to be a full-time driver for a Monster Energy NASCAR series race and the first Black driver to race in a Daytona 500 since 1969, was already reason for Wallace to feel like a success. He was aggressive and rode near the front for the entire race giving hope to a new generation of NASCAR fans, that his first venture into the elite level of NASCAR racing would be an historic event.
Bubba Wallace talks Austin Dillon and nuances of his second place Daytona 500 finish
While Austin Dillon was the winner, driving the No. 3 car on the 17th anniversary of the death of legendary Dale Earnhardt and the 20th anniversary of Dales only Daytona 500 victory, Wallace Jr. was clearly the star of the show.
AUSTIN DILLON WINS DAYTONA 500 ON 17th Anniversary of DALE EARNHARDT SR DEATH driving Earnhardts No.3 car
His post race press conference was packed with reporters clamoring to get some insight into how Wallace was feeling after performing magnificently in a race that not only held significance to the pure racing fan, but to the future of NASCAR in general.
Before Wallace proved that he is a force in NASCAR — not just because he is a rare African-American driver but because he has the personality, skill, will and temperament to handle the media who focused on his skin color rather than his ability — few gave him a chance to win the Daytona 500.
Most hoped that he would at least be competitive and find a respectable place in this inaugural 2018 NASCAR extravaganza. Wallace not only exceeded expectations, he almost won the whole thing. Many casual and diehard fans were pulling for him. Especially men of color who have also carved out a name for themselves in various forms of car racing.
Lewis Hamilton on Twitter
Hey @BubbaWallace! Wishing you the absolute best today in your race. Smash it!!
Daytona 500 second place finisher Bubba Wallace addresses the media about encouraging phone calls from Hank Aaron and Formula 1 racing badass Lewis Hamilton
It wasn’t easy, but Wallace survived a couple of potential wrecks, the difficulties of handling a new car in a higher level of NASCAR competition, the pressure of racing the all-time winningest car in NASCAR history and came closer to winning than anyone writing his Hollywood script could have ever hoped for.
Dillon won the race, but Wallace won the hearts of the NASCAR fans with his personality, natural swag and competitiveness and perked the senses of NASCAR outliers who simply wanted to see a brother compete at the highest levels of the sport.
Bubba Wallace discusses how he earned the respect of NASCAR so quickly
In one race, Wallace has gone from a NASCAR sideshow to the real deal Holyfield with endless marketing possibilities and a guy who has the potential to rewrite the history books of the sport. A guy who decided not to wait to shut down the critics and the naysayers and prove that it was his power, poise and potency as a navigator of his Chevrolet car that would cement his legacy in the NASCAR world. The color of his skin was just an added nugget. The boy can flat out whip it and he proved it on Sunday at one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated NASCAR races in recent memory.