And The Winner Is: Bubba!

It’s time to Break It Down!

I’m a southerner, all day long. As the saying goes, “I’m a Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, and when I die, I’ll be a Tar Heel dead. Speaking of the Tar Heels, the nickname for University of North Carolina (UNC) sports teams, and alumni, and more broadly, for denizens of the North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, the name Bubba has been indelibly integrated into our lexicon of appellations. Since November 14, 2011, Lawrence R. Cunningham, familiarly known as Bubba, has served as UNC’s athletic Director. I digress.

This post is about a different Bubba, Bubba Wallace. Meanwhile, I’ll spare you my varied contemplations about guys called Bubba.

Back to the story. Bubba Wallace made history Monday, becoming just the second Black driver to win NASCAR’s Cup Series race, the association’s top series. Wallace is the first Black man to win the Cup Series race since NASCAR Hall of Fame racer Wendell Scott, in 1963. It would be nearly impossible, and totally inappropriate to omit noting that when Scott won the race, he never took possession of the Trophy. Only this past August, NASCAR presented Scott’s family the winner’s treasure.

On December 1, 1963, Wendell Scott won the Cup Series at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. However, Scott didn’t get to celebrate his win and didn’t receive a trophy as part of the standard post-race presentation. At the end of the race, Buck Baker was flagged the winner and it wasn’t until the official scoring review that race officials determined Scott had won the event by two laps – with Baker finishing second.

Even with that revelation, it took nearly 58 years to approximate righting such an egregious wrong. Scott, who died in 1990, never received the spoils of victory. That Wendell Scott lived more than a quarter of a century after winning the race, and still didn’t get his trophy is an abomination. The fact that it took another 30 plus for NASCAR to award the Trophy posthumously is in a word, shameful. But, if they could wait more than half a century, it’s conceivable they could have somehow rationalized never doing it. I guess such abuses of all things civilized are the bases for the aphorism, “better late than never.”

Bubba Wallace is an Alabama native. Though he claimed not to often think about matters in terms of his being just the second Black driver to win the race, he conceded that when he did, he recognized his win brought a lot of joy and emotion to his family, friends, and fans. He deemed it, “Pretty fitting that it comes here in Talladega.”

Wallace came to notoriety last summer when a noose was found in his garage at Talladega. To come full circle from the circus that broke out over that occasion, had to be satisfying. In 2020, he was NASCAR’s lone Black driver, and drove for racing royalty, Richard Petty’s team. After the kerfuffle, he left Team Petty, and later signed with a new team, that was literally a “new team.” Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin formed a team and made Wallace it first driver. The Cup Series win at Talladega was a breakthrough moment for driver and team. Jordan and Hamlin were both already winners. Monday, however, belonged to Wallace. “And The Winner Is: Bubba!”

I’m done; holla back!

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