TALLADEGA, Ala. – Even in the win, Ryan Blaney reflected on what happened to good friend Bubba Wallace last weekend. And what happened next.
- Ryan Blaney held on to his second straight win in Talladega, after crashing behind him in the last lap of the race
- Racers were behind and with Bubba Wallace after a noose was found in his garage box on Sunday
- Wallace finished 14th and faded from a top-5 finish as he ran out of fuel in the final laps of the race
Blaney held onto the lead after a two-lap restart on Monday, hitting his second consecutive win over Talladega Superspeedway on a day that started with NASCAR drivers throwing their support behind Wallace.
“I think it’s great that everyone really got together,” said Blaney. “I don’t want it to be remembered as a terrible day or a bad day in NASCAR.
“I want it to be remembered because there was an incident and we all overcame it together and showed we won’t take it again.”
It was that kind of bittersweet day and weekend.
Blaney defeated Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the finish with 0.007 seconds for his fourth win and the first since Talladega in October, albeit this time for a largely empty location. It was a race characterized by support for Wallace instead of another Big One at Talladega, although in the last round there was chaos behind Blaney and he also pushed Erik Jones into the wall towards the finish.
“Just try to block, block as best you can,” Blaney said. “Block the top, block the bottom … just hit and bang the line. “
Aric Almirola turned at the end and came almost backwards.
Ford has now won nine of the last 10 Cup races at Talladega and all three Team Penske drivers have won this season.
Racing was eclipsed by an extraordinary act of solidarity with NASCAR’s only black driver. Dozens of drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the field before Monday’s race as FBI agents tried to find out who left a noose in his garage box over the weekend.
He was emotional after spending time in the top five before running out of fuel and finishing 14th, clapping hands with a group of mostly African American fans.
“I am proud to be where I am. “This sport is changing,” said Wallace. “The deal that happened (Saturday) I wanted to show who it was, you won’t take my smile away. I will continue. ‘
Wallace took the lead at one point, and Stenhouse said he noticed the fan’s reaction, along with the chants of ‘Bubba’ at the beginning.
“I looked at the stands and saw how all the people jumped up and cheered,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
The stock car series was hampered and upset by the racist act provoked less than two weeks after it banned the Southern flag on its properties at Wallace’s insistence. It has vowed to keep the person responsible permanently, but the investigation was still in the initial stages.
Just before the race, 26-year-old Wallace was surrounded by all 39 other drivers and they were joined by their crews in a march along the pit lane while pushing his number 43 to the front of the line. Wallace got out of his car and cried.
It was an exciting move to support Wallace on a job in the heart of the south where Southern flags have flown for decades and been seen off the high-speed road all weekend by fans who were against NASCAR’s ban.
Next to Wallace stood for the national anthem Richard Petty, the 82-year-old Hall of Fame driver known as “The King”. Wallace drives for Petty, who has released a devastating reprimand after the noose was found calling for the “sick” to be evicted from NASCAR forever – a move that NASCAR president Steve Phelps insisted would happen if caught.
The race started with Martin Truex Jr. on the post and Tyler Reddick won the first leg, which ended in a weather warning that lasted 58 plus minutes.
The crowd had shrunk significantly from Sunday, when up to 5,000 fans were allowed to enter Talladega – only the second race with fans since NASCAR returned from the pandemic-forced shutdown. Workers painted “#IStandWithBubbaWallace” on the lawn before the race and the Confederation’s flags were nowhere to be seen in the expansive facility with a capacity of over 80,000 people and typically see dozens of RVs lined up across the inner field.
In the stands, fan Luke Johnson said he was against the flag ban and said, “All NASCAR tracks should keep flying with it.”
Of the noose that left for Wallace, he said, “I thought it was funny, too.”
Another fan, Robert Chaisson, said he had no strong opinion about the ban. He certainly did what happened to Wallace.
“That was confused. I hope they charge that man with a hate crime, ”said Chaisson, who lives in Alabaster, Alabama. “It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, if you cross that line, your opinion doesn’t matter anymore. That is trying to harm someone else. ‘