Bubba Wallace Scores Historical Win at Talladega

Bubba Wallace realizes his future which looks quite bright. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Bubba Wallace realizes his future looks quite bright. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

After the trials and tribulations that Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. endured in his racing career, his historical moment on Oct. 4 at Talladega Superspeedway proves quite sentimental, empowering and inspirational.

Make no mistake that Wallace embodies the makings of a genuine, competitive NASCAR Cup Series racer. Incredibly talented, raw and honest, Wallace’s passion on and off the track proves relatable to those inside the racing circles and in most walks of life.

Although Wallace entered the rain delayed and shortened YellaWood 500 without a win in his past 142 starts, the Mobile, Alabama native has been so close. Then again, Wallace likely considered the 21,127 days since the only other time when Wendell Scott made history as the first African American driver to win a Cup race.

In just his fifth overall start, Wallace nearly won the 2018 Daytona 500 after placing second in a spirited battle with present car co-owner Denny Hamlin.

On this day, Bubba Wallace found what he was looking for in his No. 23 car. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

On this day, Bubba Wallace found what he was looking for in his No. 23 car. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Also, Wallace logged a podium at Indianapolis in 2019 along with a pair of fifth place results at Daytona and Pocono before another runner up result at the 2021 Coke Zero Sugar 400.

As a driver who extracts the most out of his cars, Wallace embraces being his genuine self. This applies with his approach on social media as he explained in a 2019 interview.

"It’s about being the best racecar driver that I can be." - Bubba Wallace (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

“It’s about being the best racecar driver that I can be.” – Bubba Wallace (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

“Yea, what you see is what you get with me,” Wallace said in a “Hot Seat” interview at Texas Motor Speedway. “I don’t change for anybody.  I’m super sarcastic and I’m really sarcastic on Twitter.  And nobody can see that.  They always think I’m being serious.  If I’m being serious, you’re going to know and I’ll probably get in trouble for being too serious.

“So, it’s fun being able to go back and forth.  Sometimes, it annoys me that fans take it to another level.  But, that’s them.  I’ll worry about myself at the end of the day.  At the end of the day, it’s about being the best racecar driver that I can be.”

Certainly, Wallace showcased some brilliance when he drove for Richard Petty Motorsports’ famous No. 43 entry from 2017 to ’20. Late last year, Wallace was named as the driver of the No. 23XI Racing entry fielded by Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.

In Wallace’s case, he tends to have a chip on his shoulder which motivates him even after his historical Talladega triumph.

"I’m so competitive, because I continue to push myself."- Bubba Wallace (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

“I’m so competitive, because I continue to push myself.”- Bubba Wallace (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

“When you go winless for four years, for me, I’m so hard on myself,” Wallace said. “I’m always just pessimistic about why we ran like this, why we ran like that. It sends you down a dark path. I am my own worst critic. It’s 100% true when people say that. Today, I’m like, ‘Hell, yeah, we got a win.’ Then I’m like, ‘Hey, you only got a win because it rained.’ I still can’t let myself enjoy it fully. I think that’s why I’m so competitive, because I continue to push myself.”

Perhaps Wallace’s desire for success and his heart on his sleeve attitude serves him well. Moreover, he remains thankful for the Drive for Diversity program and the opportunities he earned resulting from his Rev Racing years.

"The diversity program is continuing to shine." - Bubba Wallace (Photo: Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

“The diversity program is continuing to shine.” – Bubba Wallace (Photo: Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

“It’s big,” he shared. “We’re trying to push those efforts a lot to go out and find new talent, wherever it is, behind the scenes, behind the wheel, on pit crews, and you’re starting to see a lot on pit crews.  And it’s just really cool to see.  I’m proud of the efforts but we’ve still got a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”

Ahead of race 31 of the season, Wallace tallied 17 top 20 finishes including two top fives and two top 10 results. Naturally, the 27-year-old desired better results.

For a young racer with a first year Cup team with a late season crew chief change, Wallace can take heart that he’s made history while inspiring others. Success comes with time and experience. Similarly, great sports dynasties like the Chicago Bulls from the NBA or the New England Patriots from the NFL did not experience immediate winning times.

Wallace, one of the catalysts of NASCAR’s diversity movement, acknowledged the program’s successes not only for himself, but with a young, sensational racer with plentiful promise.

Quite the historical moment for Bubba Wallace. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Quite the historical moment for Bubba Wallace. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

“It’s really cool,” Wallace said. “It’s ironic. I was sitting in the bus bored last night playing some PlayStation. I got bored with that. What’s on TV? Watched a little bit of the football game, Patriots and Buccaneers. The ARCA Menards was on from Salem. I had already knew that Rajah had finished third. I was watching them, Damn, that’s a really good run for him.

“I’m proud of him, need to shoot him a message. Ironic how I was watching him, got pumped up for how well he ran there, then the win today. Do I give him some credit for bringing some good mojo? Yeah, if that makes him feel better, I’ll give him some.”

Ultimately, Wallace remains thankful for his opportunities including his tenure with Rev Racing.

“The diversity program is continuing to shine,” Wallace opined. “I still continue to say without that deal back in 2010, 2011, I don’t know if I would be here. I don’t know if I would be in the top three levels of our sport without that deal. Just got to keep on going, continue to watch the talent come up through.”

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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