Bubba Wallace Scores Emotional and Historic win at Talladega

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 04: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald's Toyota, leads Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, and Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, during the NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

This time the race winner got the trophy.

A year ago, Bubba Wallace stood at the forefront of NASCAR’s efforts of social change. Monday, he stood in victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway as a first-time winner in the NASCAR Cup series.

Wallace was leading late in a race that had been postponed from Sunday due to rain when the rains came again. For the second time in the rescheduled race the field was brought down pit road and stopped. Unlike earlier in the race however, the rains didn’t let up and after 117 laps, 13 laps beyond the distance to make the race official, the race was called and Wallce was declared the winner.

It marked the first time since 1963 that a Black driver has won since Wendell Scott won in Jacksonville Florida in 1963.

Ironically the win came just a few weeks after Wallace took part in a ceremony at Daytona where NASCAR awarded the family of Wendell Scott the trophy, he was denied in 1963.

“I never think about those things,” Wallace said. “But when you say it like that, it obviously brings a lot of emotion on and joy to my family, fans, friends. It’s pretty damn cool. Just proud to be a winner in the Cup Series.”

Brad Keselowski was second with Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Christopher Bell rounding out the top five.

The race was originally scheduled to run Sunday, but a persistent rain led to a two-hour delay before cars could even take to the track after the track was dried. The engines were fired, and the field made a lap, but the rains returned in earnest and running out of daylight, NASCAR was forced to move the race to Monday.

Denny Hamlin led the field to the green just after 1:00 p.m. ET under partly cloudy skies. The first caution of the day was a competition caution at lap 25 after a round of intense racing as more rain threatened. The second caution of the day came out on lap 57 just three laps from the end of Stage 1 when Justin Allgaier was sent into the outside frontstretch wall after he was pushed by William Byron. Playoff driver Kyle Larson was squeezed up into the outside wall and limped to the pits with heavy damage. Chase Briscoe was also damaged. Allgaier was done for the day, but Larson tried to continue.

Chris Buescher would win Stage 1. Three laps after the restart Larson would lose a rear tire and crash into the Turn 1 wall bringing out the fourth caution of the day. During the yellow, the rains picked back up and NASCAR was forced to red flag the field 22 laps short of the halfway point of the race which would make it official.

After a stoppage of just over 18 minutes the race restarted with Cody Ware leading. Christopher Bell was leading at the halfway point, making it an official race, at lap 94 as the race was intensified as rain again threatened.

The fifth caution came out on lap 99 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bumped Alex Bowman just after Bowman had taken the lead. The ensuing melee swept up six other drivers including Playoff drivers Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch.

The green waved for the final time on lap 104 and with more rain moving in, the field raced three wide with the lead swapping several times.

Wallace would take the lead on lap 114 and would swap furiously as the rain picked up. He was leading on lap 117 when Ryan Preece was spun by Buescher who swept up Playoff driver William Byron and Matt DiBenedetto.

During the ensuing caution the rains began falling harder, the field was stopped on pit road. With darkness approaching and lightning delays, NASCAR called the race and emotional Wallace celebrated a historic win.

For Hamlin, co-owner of 23XI Racing, the win was also his first as a team owner.

“It’s way more emotional because I just know that these guys just have worked so hard over the last 10 months to put this team together,” Hamlin said. “We’ve just spent a lot of hours putting this together and it’s great to see the results from all the hard work from these team guys.”

Stenhouse was sixth, winning team owner Hamlin seventh; Kevin Harvick seventh with Erik Jones and Anthony Alfredo rounding out the top 10.

Keselowski, Logano, Bell, Hamlin and Harvick were the only Playoff drivers to finish inside the top 10. Other Playoff drivers: Truex was 12th, Ryan Blaney 15th, Chase Elliott 18th, Kyle Busch 27th. Byron was 36th, Larson 37th and Bowman 38th.

Harvick is nine points below the cutoff, with Bell 28 points in arrears and Byron and Bowman 44 and 52 points on the outside, respectively as the Cup series wraps up the Round of 12 next Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course. Four drivers will be trimmed from the postseason field after the event.

Monday’s race also made NASCAR history for another reason. With Wallace being a first-time winner in the Cup series, it wrapped up a weekend that saw first time winners in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series with winners in the Xfinity and Truck series on Saturday.

As an emotional Wallace made his way to his first victory celebration as a Cup series winner he wasn’t thinking about himself.

“This is for all those kids out there that want to have an opportunity at whatever they want to achieve and be the best at what they want to do,” he said fighting back tears. ”You’re going to go through a lot of bullshit, but you always have to stay true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you. Stay strong, stay humble, stay hungry. There have been plenty of times that I wanted to give up, but you surround yourselves with the right people and it’s moments like this that you appreciate.”

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 04: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, is congratulated on the grid by Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, (R) after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results YellaWood 500

Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega, Alabama

Sunday, October 3, 2021

  1. (19)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 117.
  2. (7)  Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 117.
  3. (8)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 117.
  4. (14)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 117.
  5. (12)  Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 117.
  6. (24)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 117.
  7. (1)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 117.
  8. (9)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 117.
  9. (26)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 117.
  10. (30)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 117.
  11. (16)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 117.
  12. (6)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 117.
  13. (28)  Cole Custer, Ford, 117.
  14. (17)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 117.
  15. (4)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 117.
  16. (21)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 117.
  17. (22)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 117.
  18. (3)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 117.
  19. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 117.
  20. (38)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 117.
  21. (25)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 117.
  22. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 117.
  23. (18)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 117.
  24. (40)  Landon Cassill(i), Toyota, 117.
  25. (36)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 117.
  26. (20)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 117.
  27. (2)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 117.
  28. (31)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 117.
  29. (37)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 117.
  30. (32)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 117.
  31. (34)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 117.
  32. (27)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 116.
  33. (23)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 116.
  34. (39)  James Davison, Ford, 116.
  35. (15)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Accident, 115.
  36. (10)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 115.
  37. (5)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 113.
  38. (11)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 97.
  39. (13)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 97.
  40. (33)  Justin Allgaier(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 55.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  130.218 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 23 Mins, 24 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 27 laps.

Lead Changes:  35 among 19 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin (P) 0;K. Busch (P) 1;J. Logano (P) 2;K. Busch (P) 3-5;K. Harvick (P) 6-11;M. DiBenedetto 12-13;K. Harvick (P) 14;M. Truex Jr. (P) 15-16;K. Larson (P) 17-19;C. Custer 20-26;A. Alfredo # 27;K. Harvick (P) 28-29;K. Busch 30-33;K. Harvick (P) 34-37;D. Hamlin (P) 38;B. Keselowski (P) 39-40;D. Hamlin (P) 41-42;B. Keselowski (P) 43-53;C. Buescher 54-60;R. Stenhouse Jr. 61;J. Logano (P) 62-64;T. Reddick 65-66;J. Logano (P) 67-71;C. Ware(i) 72-75;*. Haley(i) 76-79;C. Bell (P) 80-83;D. Hamlin (P) 84-86;C. Bell (P) 87-88;K. Harvick (P) 89-91;C. Bell (P) 92-96;A. Bowman (P) 97;R. Stenhouse Jr. 98-105;C. Bell (P) 106;R. Stenhouse Jr. 107;K. Busch 108-112;B. Wallace 113-117.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kevin Harvick (P) 5 times for 16 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 2 times for 13 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 4 times for 12 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3 times for 10 laps; Joey Logano (P) 3 times for 9 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 9 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 7 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 7 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 6 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 5 laps; * Justin Haley(i) 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 2 times for 4 laps; Cody Ware(i) 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 2 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 2 laps; Anthony Alfredo # 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman (P) 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 17,22,2,4,8,12,9,42,1,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 23,2,22,1,20,17,11,4,43,38

Greg Engle