Bubba Wallace has become the first Black driver to win the NASCAR Cup Series in over 50 years after his victory at the Talladega Superspeedway.
Wallace found himself celebrating the victory after crews attempted to dry the track after consistent rain during Monday’s playoff race, ESPN reported. Officials suspended the game after the 27-year-old made his way to the front of the field just five laps prior.
The North Carolina native won the historic race driving the No. 23 car during his first season as part of the 23XI Racing team owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and his partner Denny Hamlin. The car number is the same Jordan wore while playing in the NBA.
He added that securing the win in his birthplace of Alabama also brought “a lot of emotion, a lot of joy to my family, fans, my friends.”
Wallace was emotional after learning of his win, Sports Illustrated shared.
“This is for all the kids out there that want to have an opportunity and whatever they want to achieve, and be the best at what they want to do,” Wallace said, CBS News reported. “You’re going to go through a lot of bulls**t. But you always got to stick true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you.”
“Stay strong. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Been plenty of times when I wanted to give up,” he added.
The driver celebrated with his team with a makeshift victory lane inside of an empty garage stall.
Wallace encountered a racist incident in 2020 at Talladega when a noose was found in his garage stall for his racecar. The incident happened shortly after the sport announced its decision to ban the confederate flag at races. The FBI later determined the noose had been tied at the end of the garage door and had been placed months prior to the garage stall being assigned to the driver.
The incident also came during the height of Black Lives Matter protests during a summer of calls for social and civil justice.
The driver went on to describe the finding of the noose as a low point in his life.
The 23XI Racing team was subsequently created a year ago and comes after Wallace’s calls for justice. The organization plans to expand its team next season.
In 1963, Wendell Scott was the first Black driver to secure a victory at NASCAR’s elite cup level. It took several months, however, for Scott to be declared the winner, and his family wasn’t gifted his trophy until two months ago.
The win was Wallace’s first in 142 career Cup starts.