Bubba Wallace is officially a NASCAR Cup Series race winner as he held the lead of Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway when the rain began to fall on the track during a caution at lap 115.
For Wallace, it was a long wait through the weather delay, but he knew if the race restarted, he still had a good car that could win.
“Part of me is sitting there waiting, it’s not over with,” Wallace said of the anguish-filled wait for NASCAR to call the race. “Just sit there bide our time, if we go back racing, that’s fine we’ll just put ourselves in position. But you had so many cool fans behind the pit box just cheering for it to rain, so it kind of amped up the intensity a little bit.”
Here was the scene as the news that Wallace had won his first race was announced:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 4, 2021
Officially, 117 laps were completed of the scheduled 188 laps in Monday’s race.
For Wallace, 27, his first-career win comes in his 143rd start in the NASCAR Cup Series and it comes in his home state of Alabama. With the win, Wallace becomes just the second-ever African American race winner in NASCAR Cup Series history, joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott.
“Yeah, I never think about those things,” Wallace said with tears flowing. “When you say it like that, it obviously brings a lot of emotion, a lot of joy for my family, fans, friends. It’s pretty damn cool. Just proud to be a winner in the Cup Series.”
For Wallace, history was made, but the more important thing for him was getting the win for his hard working 23XI racing team.
“I know a lot of history was made today, I believe, which is really cool,” Wallace explained. “But it’s about my guys, it’s about our team. About what we’ve done. I appreciate Michael Jordan, I appreciate Denny [Hamlin] for believing in me and giving me an opportunity.”
Wallace took the lead on lap 113 and held off a furious charge of other drivers over the final five laps of the race to secure his win. Wallace made wild blocks and moves as his team radio told him rain was near.
When Preece went around on lap 115, the skies opened and the weather remained long enough at Talladega Superspeedway, which does not have lights, for Wallace to be awarded the victory.
Here is the full emotional post-race interview with race-winner Bubba Wallace:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 4, 2021
Rain plagued this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway all weekend long, and actually postponed the start of the race from Sunday to Monday.
The race had a red flag for rain on lap 73, but in NASCAR, the race must reach the halfway point or the end of Stage 2, whichever comes first. In the case of Monday’s race, that was the halfway point of lap 94.
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Team Penske teammates and Playoff contenders, finished second and third. Kurt Busch came home in fourth and Christopher Bell, another Playoff contender, ended up in fifth after a strong run late in the race.
Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon and Anthony Alfredo capped off the top-10 finishers in the event.
For Alfredo, this marks the first top-10 finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Trouble for Playoff Hopefuls
William Byron, one of the 12 remaining Playoff contenders, was swept up in the final crash of the race. After a rough start to the Round of 12, Byron will need a win at the Charlotte Roval if he hopes to advance to the Round of 8.
Byron said the crash, which led to him finishing 36th, was just a product of Talladega racing.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” Byron said. “[Preece] was just coming down the track and I was trying to run a third lane. Just part of Talladega. Just go to the Roval, try to win that one and advance that way.”
Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman were also involved in crashes on Monday.
For Larson, he’s still in a comfortable position of the points heading into next weekend’s Playoff elimination race at the Roval, by virtue of his six wins this season, but Bowman, like Byron, faces a must-win situation at the Roval.
Where the Playoff Drivers Finished
Brad Keselowski, 2nd
Joey Logano, 3rd
Christopher Bell, 5th
Denny Hamlin, 7th
Kevin Harvick, 8th
Martin Truex Jr., 12th
Ryan Blaney, 15th
Chase Elliott, 18th
Kyle Busch, 26th
William Byron, 36th
Kyle Larson, 37th
Alex Bowman, 38th
- Denny Hamlin (Locked into Round of 8 with Win)
- Kyle Larson, +22 points
- Joey Logano, +21
- Brad Keselowski, +20
- Martin Truex Jr., +20
- Ryan Blaney, +15
- Chase Elliott, +9
- Kyle Busch, +9
- Kevin Harvick, -9
- Christopher Bell, -28
- William Byron, -44
- Alex Bowman, -52