There’s adversity and then there is what Bubba Wallace had to endure on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
The 26-year old driver, the only African-American driver on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, was the victim of a racially charged hate crime on Sunday when one of Wallace’s Richard Petty Motorsports crew members found a noose in their No. 43 garage stall during a rain delay, which turned into a full-on postponement of the race.
On Monday, Wallace was lifted above that hateful moment in a touching display on pit road before the race.
While Wallace sat in his No. 43 machine, his fellow drivers and their crew members helped push his car to the front of the grid. It was a respectful display of defiance against racism. That kind of behavior may have been okay in NASCAR’s past, but it will not be a part of NASCAR’s future.
“The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life,” Wallace sobbed after Monday’s race. “All of the support from the drivers, crew members, everyone here. The badass fan base thank you guys for coming out. This is truly incredible and I’m proud to be a part of this sport.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps, on Monday, vowed to ban the guilty party from the sport for life, when the sanctioning body discovers who committed the heinous act.
After an emotional evening, morning and afternoon, Wallace went into his comfort zone behind the wheel of Richard Petty Motorsports’ inconic No. 43 car.
And he didn’t disappoint.
in a wild race, which saw frantic racing as it appeared weather would shorten the event, Wallace kept his head cool and his car clean.
In the final laps, Wallace began to press for the win.
The Alabama native led lap 161, but dropped back inside the top-five in an effort to save fuel. Unfortunately, Wallace would not have enough fuel to make it to the finish of the race, but luckily, when Jimmie Johnson went for a spin with three laps left in regulation, Wallace was able to coast to pit road and get more fuel.
“I know I should have won that damn race,” Wallace exclaimed. “We ran out of gas. Just the stars didn’t align for us completely. Overall, we won today.”
He would push hard, going from 23rd to inside the top-10, in the overtime finish. But as the field came out of turns three and four, things got wild.
Cars smashed, and crashed, as Ryan Blaney edged Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the win. Wallace seemed to play it conservatively, and brought his car home in one piece as a result in 14th-spot.
After climbing from his car, Wallace climbed the banking to greet the fans in the stands.
“This is probably the most badass moment right here,” Wallace said fighting back tears. “It’s been tough, it’s been hell — I wouldn’t say hell, it’s been hectic carrying this weight, carrying this burden — I wouldn’t really say burden either, I’m proud to stand where I’m at.”
While it wasn’t a win, or even a top-10, Wallace had a very strong effort on what was a very emotionally draining weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. But at the end of the day, the silver lining is that the overwhelming majority of the sport do not agree with the disgusting actions of a — for now — anonymous coward.
“This sport is changing,” Wallace explained. “That deal that happened yesterday — sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile and I’m going to keep going.”
Wallace took his sixth top-15 finish thru the first 13 races of 2020, and he sits 21st in the championship driver standings as the Series heads to Pocono Raceway for a double-header weekend.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.