Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. carries the weight of being NASCAR’s only Black driver on his shoulders, but does so with pride as evidenced by a pinned tweet on his Twitter account. On Sunday, Bubba Wallace made history after finishing as the runner-up in the Daytona 500, the highest finish for a Black driver ever.
Before Wallace’s second-place finish, the highest finish for a Black driver was 13th after Black NASCAR legend Wendell Scott did so in 1966. Adding to the scarcity of Black drivers at the top level, Wallace is the first Black driver to make it to the NASCAR elite level since Scott’s days on the track and the first driver since 1969 to race at the Daytona 500.
Major League Baseball Hall of Fame legend Hank Aaron called Wallace ahead of Sunday’s race to wish him luck. Black British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton also wished Wallace as well. In a race where 15 other cars wrecked or didn’t complete the track, Wallace, who drives for retired NASCAR star Richard Petty’s team, challenged for the win until the very end, eventually losing to Austin Dillon.
After the race, an emotional press conference featured Wallace next to his mother, Desiree, and sister, all overcome with joy. Wallace, who is aware of his status within NASCAR’s ranks, spoke of what the finish meant for his family and proving naysayers wrong in counting him out at the top level of the sport.
Wallace, 24, has been around the race track since the age of nine and showed promise early on that has paid off in recent times.
In 2013, Wallace made history by winning the Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 in October of that year. Before then, the only Black NASCAR driver to win a national series was the aforementioned Scott in 1963. In 2017, he became the first Black driver to race in the NASCAR Cup Series since Bill Lester did so in 2006.
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