Monday's YellaWood 500 at Talladega -
GLADEVILLE – Nashville Superspeedway president Erik Moses said Monday’s victory by Bubba Wallace at Talladega was ‘fantastic’ for a lot of reasons.
Wallace became the first black driver to win a top-tier race in modern NASCAR history – and only the second ever – and it was especially meaningful to Moses, the sport’s only black track president.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Moses said. “It’s great for Bubba, and hopefully it will continue to grow our sport and introduce it to more people.”
Moses noted that the victory came in a year when NASCAR paid tribute to Wendell Scott – the only other black driver to win a race – by presenting his trophy to his family in a ceremony following an August race at Daytona.
In 1963 Scott won a NASCAR race at a since-defunct track in Jacksonville, Fla., but afterwards he was not presented the trophy in the traditional Victory Circle ceremony.
Track officials claimed the trophy had been “misplaced,” but Scott was convinced it was denied him because the officials didn’t want him posing on-stage with the scantly-clad white “trophy queen.”
Scott, who always said he was accepted and often assisted in his career by other drivers, retired from driving in 1970. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
Wallace is the only black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, and the setting of his first victory was significant. It was at Talladega Superspeedway last
year that what appeared to be a noose was found hanging in Wallace’s garage bay.
NASCAR immediately launched an FBI-led investigation, which determined that the “noose” was not a hate symbol, but a garage-pull left over from the year’s previous use. The FBI said the fact that it was in the garage bay of the lone black driver was coincidental, and not directed at Wallace.
Nevertheless, the entire sport rallied around Wallace during that tumultuous weekend.
Wallace, who drives for a team owned by retired NBA superstar Michael Jordan, had shown steady progress throughout his NASCAR career – including one second-place finish – but hadn’t been able to capture a checkered flag in the Cup Series until Monday.
The victory came in a rain-shorted race that was rescheduled after a Sunday rainout, but it didn’t dampen the celebration, which included congratulations from Wallace’s fellow drivers.
Moses, busy with meetings, wasn’t watching the race on TV. But he plans to catch the replays.
“It’s a big moment for Bubba,” Moses said, “and a big moment for our sport.”