Mobile, AL Native Becomes the 12th Driver in History to Capture First Career Victory at NASCAR’s Biggest and Baddest Track
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 3, 2021) – An opportune caution and a sudden rain shower helped make Bubba Wallace the second African-American driver ever to win a NASCAR Cup Series race in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Wallace held the lead in Monday’s rain-delayed YellaWood 500 at when Ryan Preece turned into the outside wall off the bumper of Chris Buescher’s Ford to cause the fifth caution of the event.
As the cars circled under the yellow, rain drenched the 2.66-mile race track. NASCAR brought the cars to pit road on Lap 118 of a scheduled 188. After another shower thwarted track-drying attempts, NASCAR called the race and declared Wallace the winner.
Wallace is the first black driver to win a race in NASCAR’s premier series since Wendell Scott took the checkered flag at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 1, 1963.
It was the first victory for 23XI Racing, a team that debuted this year with driver Denny Hamlin and Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan as co-owners. Drivers outside the respective Playoffs won all three Talladega races in NASCAR’s top three divisions this week. Wallace completed the trifecta all being first-time winners.
Wallace’s victory came at the same track where the sport came together to support him after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and after a noose—later found not to be directed at Wallace—was discovered in his garage stall. The victory was special in that Wallace is from Mobile, AL.
“Man, I’m just so proud of everyone at 23XI,”said Wallace, who became the 12th driver in Talladega Superspeedway history to claim his initial triumph at the mammoth venue. “New team coming in and getting a win late in the season. I know a lot of history was made today, I believe, which is really cool, but it’s about our guys, about our team, about what was done.
“I appreciate Michael Jordan, I appreciate Denny for believing in me and giving me the opportunity… It’s pretty fitting that it comes here at Talladega.”
Wallace was choked up when asked about the historic significance of his achievement.
“I never think about those things, and when you say it like that, it obviously brings a lot of emotions, a lot of joy to my family, fans, friends… You’ve got to stay true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you and stay strong, stay humble, stay hungry.
“There’ve been plenty of times when I wanted to give up. You surround yourself with the right people, and moments like this that you appreciate.”
Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano improved their chances of transferring into the Round of 8 in the Playoff with second- and third-place finishes. Kurt Busch was fourth, followed by Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski came up just one position short in what could have been his seventh triumph at Talladega, which would have taken him out of a tie for second on the track’s all-time win list with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
The wreck that ultimately made a winner of Wallace severely damaged the Playoff hopes of William Byron, whose Chevrolet was collected by the spinning car of Preece. Byron was relegated to 36th in the finishing order and likely will need a victory next Sunday at the Charlotte Roval to advance to the Round of 8.
“He (Preece) was just coming down the track, and I was kind of trying to run a third lane,” Byron said of the wreck. “Just part of Talladega. We’ll go to the Roval, try to win that one and advance that way.”
Byron was the last of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers to get swept up in an accident. Kyle Larson was the first. By the time the first sudden rain shower of the day darkened the asphalt in Turns 1 and 2 and forced a stoppage on Lap 74, Larson’s fortunes already had taken a turn for the worse.
A strong push from Byron’s Chevrolet turned Justin Allgaier’s Camaro sideways as the cars thundered through the tri-oval on Lap 56. Allgaier shot up the track into Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, severely damaging the front suspension and the sheet metal on the driver’s side of the car.
Larson was able to make minimum speed after a restart on Lap 65. The caution for the five-car wreck that crippled Larson’s car also encompassed the end of Stage 1, won by non-Playoff driver Chris Buescher.
On Lap 67, Larson shredded his right front tire, which was cocked at an angle toward the outside wall when he resumed racing. He lost three laps on pit road and fell to 39th in the running order as his crew made frantic repairs.
Attrition elevated Larson to 37th at the finish, but he lost the security he had as a six-time winner in the series this year. The regular-season champion leaves Talladega second in the standings but just 22 points above the current cutoff for the Round of 8.
A multicar chain-reaction wreck after the resumption of the action brought an early end to Alex Bowman’s afternoon. On Lap 98, Chase Elliott pushed the Chevrolet of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the rear bumper of Bowman’s Chevy, turning the No. 48 Camaro into the outside wall and out of the race.
“The 9 (Elliott) just shoved me one last time there, and it got the 48 loose,” Stenhouse radioed to his team.
Bowman was fighting for the race lead when he was turned by the contact from Stenhouse’s car.
“Yeah, just dumped over on the left rear and turned us around really bad,” Bowman said. “Bummer for the Ally 48 team. We had a fast car; we were leading there. That’s just superspeedway racing and the box that we’re put in by these racetracks. You’ll have that. Bummed to have torn up race car, but we’ll move on and try to go win the Roval.”
Kyle Busch was another victim of the Lap 98 wreck, but the two-time Cup champion remains nine points above the current cut line—tied with defending champion Chase Elliott—heading to the Round of 12 elimination race on Sunday at the Charlotte Roval.
Harvick is nine points below the cutoff, with Bell 28 points in arrears and Byron and Bowman 44 and 52 points on the outside, respectively.
Coming in 2022!
The 53rd edition of the Talladega springtime classic, GEICO 500, is set for Sunday, April 24, and will be the premier series’ 10th points race of the year.
Fans wishing to attend the GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race at ’DEGA in 2022 can purchase tickets starting at $75 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and younger. Account holders from the 2021 GEICO 500 can take advantage of even lower pricing when renewing their tickets & camping. For information on next spring’s GEICO 500, as well as the Ag-Pro 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series (April 23) and the General Tire 200 for the ARCA Menards Series (April 23), fans can visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342).
NASCAR Cup Series Race – 53rd Annual YellaWood 500
Sunday, October 3, 2021
1. (19) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 117
2. (7) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 117
3. (8) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 117
4. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 117
5. (12) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 117
6. (24) Chris Buescher, Ford, 117
7. (1) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 117
8. (9) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 117
9. (26) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 117
10. (30) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 117
11. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 117
12. (6) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 117
13. (28) Cole Custer, Ford, 117
14. (17) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 117
15. (4) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 117
16. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 117
17. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 117
18. (3) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 117
19. (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 117
20. (38) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 117
21. (25) Ryan Newman, Ford, 117
22. (29) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 117
23. (18) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 117
24. (40) Landon Cassill(i), Toyota, 117
25. (36) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 117
26. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 117
27. (2) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 117
28. (31) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 117
29. (37) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 117
30. (32) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 117
31. (34) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 117
32. (27) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 116
33. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 116
34. (39) James Davison, Ford, 116
35. (15) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Accident, 115
36. (10) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 115
37. (5) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 113
38. (11) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 97
39. (13) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 97
40. (33) Justin Allgaier(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 55.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 130.218 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 23 Mins, 24 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 27 laps.
Lead Changes: 35 among 19 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin (P) 0;K. Busch (P) 1;J. Logano (P) 2;K. Busch (P) 3-5;K. Harvick (P) 6-11;M. DiBenedetto 12-13;K. Harvick (P) 14;M. Truex Jr. (P) 15-16;K. Larson (P) 17-19;C. Custer 20-26;A. Alfredo # 27;K. Harvick (P) 28-29;K. Busch 30-33;K. Harvick (P) 34-37;D. Hamlin (P) 38;B. Keselowski (P) 39-40;D. Hamlin (P) 41-42;B. Keselowski (P) 43-53;C. Buescher 54-60;R. Stenhouse Jr. 61;J. Logano (P) 62-64;T. Reddick 65-66;J. Logano (P) 67-71;C. Ware(i) 72-75;*. Haley(i) 76-79;C. Bell (P) 80-83;D. Hamlin (P) 84-86;C. Bell (P) 87-88;K. Harvick (P) 89-91;C. Bell (P) 92-96;A. Bowman (P) 97;R. Stenhouse Jr. 98-105;C. Bell (P) 106;R. Stenhouse Jr. 107;K. Busch 108-112;B. Wallace 113-117.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kevin Harvick (P) 5 times for 16 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 2 times for 13 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 4 times for 12 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3 times for 10 laps; Joey Logano (P) 3 times for 9 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 9 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 7 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 7 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 6 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 5 laps; * Justin Haley(i) 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 2 times for 4 laps; Cody Ware(i) 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 2 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 2 laps; Anthony Alfredo # 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 17,22,2,4,8,12,9,42,1,48
Stage #2 Top Ten: 23,2,22,1,20,17,11,4,43,38
About Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway is the most competitive race track on the NASCAR schedule (record 88 lead changes in 188 laps), the highest-banked (33 degrees) and the longest (2.66 miles), as well as the most fun and fan-friendly. Three- and four-wide racing at 200 mph are a norm at Talladega Superspeedway, along with nail-biting, photo finishes. For information, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA.