After years of ups and down for Darrell Wallace Jr., a dominating drive at the end of the second stage of NASCAR's Talladega 500 resulted in a historic moment. For only the second time in history, a black man has won at NASCAR's top level.
Wallace, who has dealt with an unrequested responsibility of leading NASCAR's diversity movement, has competed in the sport since 2017. He was winless in his first 142 career cup starts, but showed underlying talent in lower divisions. In both NASCAR's Truck Series and Regional K/N East Touring series, he had a previous total of 6 wins each.
While today's event ended in rain, speed and dominance at the largest tracks in the sport are not new for the Mobile Alabama native. He has led in 4 consecutive events at Talladega and was a matter of feet away from winning the 2018 Daytona 500.
Wallace's team, newly found 23Xi (Pronounced Twenty-Three Eleven) Racing is co-owned by NASCAR elite Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan. In conjunction with a close partnership with Toyota, the 23Xi team has been focused on building a team of leaders that will earn them great multi-year success. The win today is special in the team's newest of leaders in addition to Wallace. Robert "Bootie" Barker is one of NASCAR's most tenured crew chiefs of all time. Nearing 500 career starts on the pit box. While he has worked for the team since the start of the season, he recently became the team's crew chief after being off the point for nearly four seasons. The win for the 23 team today also marked Barker's first career win. Barker shared in post race media availabilities that he is also an engineer with the team.
In 2021, the 23 team had only recorded 2 top 5's prior to the win.
A Motorsports Diversity Monument
Since 1949, NASCAR's top series has primarily been a southeastern white man's sport. Only one time in history had a black man won in the Cup Series. Wendell Scott won in Jacksonville in 1964, but was never awarded his trophy. It wasn't until 2021 that his family was finally awarded with a physical trophy and recognition. It is easy to assume that the Scott family is smiling large today. Perhaps the win today is a close 2nd place to the significance of the trophy presentation from earlier this summer.
Only 1 year ago, during the height of protests relating to racial injustice, Darrell was lifted spiritually by the entire field of NASCAR. Every driver and team walked along his side as they pushed his car to the front of the field. Today, he wins at one of the sport's greatest stages.
This event marks one of the most significant moments in motorsports history. We expect his team to be celebrating for years to come!