“History is not was, it is,” William Faulkner stated.
December 1, 1963, with 25 laps remaining and a one hundred mile Grand National race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, Wendell Scott passed the 43 car of Richard Petty and stayed out front until the 200th and final lap. But a scoring error initially gave the win to Buck Baker after what turned out to be 202 laps.
A post-race review eventually gave Scott what he deserved two years later. A checkered flag, 1000 dollars in prize money, and the distinction of becoming the first black driver ever to win a NASCAR Cup Race. But he never experienced the fanfare of the traditional victory lane celebration. In the minds of some, that was the plan all along.
White southerners were not ready to see a white Trophy Queen kiss a black man on the cheek. It was not until 47 years later, in 2010, that Scott’s family received a trophy from that win, 20 years after Scott had passed away. The actual recognition for the family took another 11 years when NASCAR commented on Scott’s achievements and legacy this past July.
Since that Sunday night in 1963, the country has changed with several more miles of progress to be driven. Bubba Wallace is one of those people leading that progress. He joined Scott in a very select company.
Present-day, to Talladega Superspeedway we go. The race was postponed on Sunday due to rain in the weather.
It was the 143rd career start for Wallace his best finish was 2nd place, twice.
Wallace was not in his car for this current finish; instead, he patiently waited with the team, hoping it was called off because of rain. Forty-five minutes later, NASCAR would call off Monday’s rescheduled race and declare him the winner.
— Warrick Scott Sr. (@SrWarrick) October 4, 2021
Wallace, at 27 years old, celebrated his first win in the NASCAR Cup Series. Becoming first black driver to win a cup series since 1963.
“It’s definitely been tough going to some of the tracks this year; we get some of the most boos now,” Wallace said. “Everybody says as long as they’re making noise that’s fine, but you know, I get booed for different reasons, and that’s the tough thing to swallow. I appreciate all those who were there doing the rain dance with us, pulling for us, supporting me my whole career, but especially those who have supported me with everything that’s gone on the last 15-16 months.”
In June 2020 at Talladega, NASCAR discovered a noose in the garage stall assigned to Wallace. The finding came just a week after NASCAR had banned the Confederate flag at its events at Wallace’s urging.
The FBI investigated and concluded that the noose was tied at the end of the garage door pull and had been there for months, meaning Wallace was not a victim of a hate crime. But entire NASCAR drivers and crews rallied around him and stood in solidarity with Wallace at the front of the grid before the race. A sight to be seen.
The flag continues to be demonstrated with vehicles being driven with them up and down Speedway Boulevard outside the speedway’s main entrance.
Wallace shared that staying off social media has been so uplifting and beneficial for his mental health.
Brad Keselowski was the runner-up.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, geez. I wish I would have made that move,'” Keselowski said. “(His) was the right move at the right time.”
NASCAR tried to dry the track for almost 45 minutes but called things off as sunset approached and the rain showed no sign of stopping.
“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 as he choked back tears. “You’re going to go through a lot of bulls—. 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.”
In his first season driving for 23XI Racing, Wallace is on a team owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.
“I’m so happy for Bubba and our entire 23XI Racing team. This is a huge milestone and a historic win for us,” Jordan said in a tweeted statement. “From the day we signed him, I knew Bubba had the talent to win, and Denny and I could not be more proud of him. Let’s go!”
Wallace shared there is a Netflix docu-series next year that is currently being filmed.
The beat goes on.
The final race in the second round of the playoffs is at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The hybrid road course/oval is where the field of 12 will be trimmed to eight. Chase Elliott is the two-time defending race winner at The Roval. His victory last October was his first of three wins in the final five races that propelled Elliott to his first Cup championship.
Wallace will compete; until then, he is also the current title winner.