Motorsports has always been a part of my life, I’ve written about it before when talking about being a part of a team.
I started watching the sport of NASCAR when I was 7 years old. My families flight had been postponed leaving Texas. and little 1st grade me was flipping through the channels. I found this sport where drivers were driving race cars at unimaginable speeds, crashing, spinning, hitting each other. It was something I had never seen before. After that first race, I was addicted. It was the first sport I ever watched. Before football, before basketball, before anything else, I watched NASCAR. That first race saw Matt Kenseth in the black and yellow #17 car win the race. He became my favorite driver, through thick and thin for 13 years. As it became ever apparent that he was growing old and going to retire, I needed to find a new driver.
Enter Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. Bubba Wallace was the first African-American driver to win in NASCAR’s top three national series in 50 years when he won a truck series race at Martinsville. He then went to drive in the #2 NASCAR series for Roush-Fenway Racing. He was good, though tended to damage the car a lot and didn’t have the funding of other drivers. This led to the #6 team shutting down. I was annoyed, because I knew he had talent.
Wallace first really made waves for me when he was so open about his mental health. One race weekend, he came into a press conference visibly off and talked openly about his recent battles with depression and some of the other mental health issues he had been battling. This was what really drew me to him. Not a single driver had previously talked openly about their mental health. They always hid behind a smile and their sponsors. He’s been a leader in that regard, with multiple other drivers talking about their mental health since he first opened up.
Still, Bubba Wallace was heading towards an OK career in NASCAR. He was a top 20 driver, but the equipment he was in was lackluster. Then 2020 happened. With the Black Lives Matter movement and a well publicized noose/pull loop incident at Talladega Superspeedway, Wallace became one of NASCAR’s most influential drivers. The day after the incident at Talladega, the entire Cup garage rallied around the driver, showing support for their competitor. Wallace went through a lot, with people saying that he lied to everyone to create a story with the Talladega incident. Though he wasn’t even the one who reported the garage rope. With a fanbase rooted in the deep south, there was a lot of disgusting things spoken about Wallace on many different platforms. Still, he pushed on.
With everything that happened, he was able to get sponsors and became one of the biggest names in the sport. This stardom allowed him to join forces with star driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan to drive the #23 car for the newly formed 23XI Racing team. The season has had many ups and downs.
Everything culminated into a race this past Monday. At the track where last years incident happened, where all the drivers rallied around him, his home track: Talladega.
With rain threatening, the driver of the #23 McDonald’s car rode the high line to the front of the field, before blocking every possible attack that he could. The laps dragged on for what seemed like hours as each line of cars made a run for the lead as rain began to fall. Finally, the inevitable crash happened, and Bubba Wallace was out front.
The rain came, and it poured. Soon enough, Bubba Wallace was declared the winner. He was now the first African-American driver to win at NASCAR’s top level since Wendell Scott in 1963. A time where Scott wasn’t given a trophy, or even recognized as the winner due to his skin color. Bubba Wallace will be getting the trophy. He’ll be getting all the recognition he deserves as a NASCAR Cup Series winner.
When he got out of the car, over ten drivers were there to congratulate him. The politics didn’t matter, heck, even the driver who ran the Trump car last year was congratulating him. It showed the camaraderie that goes on within a sport such as this.
One of the options I am seriously considering looking into for my future involves trying to get into NASCAR. Granted, this sport has its flaws with a fanbase that is divided, rules packages that are made to manufacture game seven moments, and most of the sport being too expensive to get into. But being able to help be a part of moments such as Monday, where such an influential figure can rise to the top amongst his peers, is something I dream of being a part of.