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 3:30 p.m. local time. Talladega doesn't have lights and the track is 2.66 miles long. NASCAR called the race because it felt the track would be impossible to dry before sunset.
Look [email protected]_ goes around and collects @WilliamByron and @mattdracing! #NASCARPlayoffspic.twitter.com/Ru3bBDD8wu
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 4, 2021
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.
"This is to all those kids out there that want to have an opportunity in whatever they want to achieve to do the best they want to do," an emotional Wallace said on pit road. "You're going to go through a lot of bulls— but you've always got to stick true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you. And stay strong, stay humble, stay hungry. There's been plenty of times where I've wanted to give up and you surround yourself with the right people and it's moments like this that you appreciate."
Wallace just the second Black driver to win at NASCAR's top level
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 shortly after 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 1963, 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.
Wallace, 27, is in his fourth full-time season in the Cup Series. He raced his first three full seasons with Richard Petty Motorsports after debuting in 2017 as an injury replacement for four races. Before moving up to the Cup Series, Wallace raced in both the Xfinity Series and Truck Series. He became the first Black driver since Scott to win a race at any NASCAR national level when he won at Martinsville in 2013.
Three Hendrick Motorsports drivers crash
It was not a great day for Hendrick Motorsports at Talladega. All four of the team's drivers are among the 12 playoff drivers racing for the championship but three of them crashed. And Chase Elliott, the one that didn't, finished 19th.
Kyle Larson crashed first. The winningest driver in NASCAR in 2021 got significant damage when he was hit by the spinning car of Justin Allgaier. Allgaier got turned sideways from a bump by Larson's teammate William Byron.
Larson's car then caused another caution minutes later because of a tire failure. Larson ended up finishing 37th.
Byron finished a spot ahead of Larson after he was taken out in the final crash of the day. Alex Bowman ended up a spot behind Larson in 38th after he was turned into the wall by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after Stenhouse Jr. got bumped by Elliott.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gets into the back of Alex Bowman, and we've got a big crash!
Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and many more also involved. #NASCARPlayoffspic.twitter.com/v9LYLSWz4F
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 4, 2021
The red flag for rain that ended the race was the second rain delay of the day. The race was originally scheduled for Sunday but was postponed to Monday because of intermittent rain throughout the day.
Monday's race was the second race of the second round of the Cup Series playoffs. The Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Roval is the final race of the round and the top eight drivers in the points standings will advance to the third round.
Hamlin leads the points standings and is automatically in the third round because of his win a week ago at Las Vegas. Byron and Bowman are likely needing to win at Charlotte to advance to the third round of the playoffs because of their poor finishes at Talladega. Larson is still in a great spot to advance because of all the playoff points he racked up during the regular season.
1. Denny Hamlin [Win at Las Vegas]
2. Kyle Larson, 3,097 points
3. Joey Logano, 3,096
4. Martin Truex Jr., 3,095
5. Brad Keselowski, 3,095
6. Ryan Blaney, 3,090
7. Chase Elliott, 3,084
8. Kyle Busch, 3,084
9. Kevin Harvick, 3,075
10. Christopher Bell, 3,056
11. William Byron, 3,040
12. Alex Bowman, 3,032
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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