Bubba Wallace extended the history of African-Americans in the sport of auto racing Monday, 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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