Long: Bubba Wallace shares momentous win with Wendell Scott’s family


TALLADEGA, Ala. — History came together in a break room adorned with disregarded candy and oranges, half-empty coffee pots and boxes of soft drinks.

Bubba Wallace, less than an hour after winning Monday’s rain-shortened Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, was handed a phone.

On the line was Frank Scott, son of Wendell Scott, whose victory on Dec. 1, 1963 made him the first and only Black driver to win a race in NASCAR’s premier series.

Until Monday.

Wallace took the phone into the break room, spun around and bent over as he shouted.

“How about that?!” he told Frank Scott.

Laughter followed for the two who have known each other for years.

“I know your dad is up there (in heaven), and he just said ‘Hell yeah,’” Wallace said on the phone.

Their conversation lasted less than 90 seconds – other duties called for Wallace – but it was a moment to appreciate the spectrum of Wallace’s win in what has been and remains a traditionally white sport.

“I wish I could have been there today with him,” Frank Scott told NBC Sports from his Danville, Virginia, home as family members celebrated in the background.

“But we were there with him. Not physically, but we were with him spiritually and emotionally. It was great, man.”

Wallace’s triumph was celebrated by many others, including Bill Lester, the last Black driver to compete in a Cup race before Wallace. Lester, who ran two Cup races in 2006, tweeted Monday how Wallace’s win “moves the NASCAR needle forward on so many fronts. Glad I was a witness.”

Wallace’s victory came nearly 16 months after fellow drivers pushed his car on pit road to the front of the grid at Talladega in a show of support for Wallace after a pull-down rope in his team’s garage stall was fashioned into a noose.

An FBI investigation later proved that the rope had been there for months and Wallace had not been the target of a hate crime.

But hate has followed Wallace, the only Black driver racing full time in any of NASCAR’s three national series. He’s faced social media harassment. Then-President Donald Trump issued a tweet that accused Wallace of a hoax.

Wallace was vocal last year in calling for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at tracks. He ran a Black Lives Matter car in a June 2020 race at Martinsville.

Wallace is among the drivers who typically receive the most boos during introductions before races.

“Everybody says, ’As long as they’re making noise, that’s fine,’” Wallace said. “I get booed for different reasons, and that’s the tough thing to swallow.”

Car owner Denny Hamlin said he can’t relate to what Wallace has gone through in his career.

“I see it on my social media,” Hamlin said. “People just automatically dislike me because I hired Bubba Wallace. ‘What are you talking about?’”

Ryan Blaney has known Wallace since they were racing in their early teens. He’s seen the hate directed toward Wallace. Blaney raced to be among the first to congratulate Wallace on his win Monday.

“He’s went through a lot,” Blaney said. “I think his perseverance has spoken a lot for the sport.”

It hasn’t been easy, Wallace admits. He used to read the hateful messages he received on social media.

“After a bad race, I would become one of those haters that doesn’t know anything,” Wallace said. “I would become one of them. Just start telling myself a bunch of dark thoughts. It never helped anything.”

Hamlin encouraged Wallace not to be motivated by those who hate him but to “get your motivation from trying to do the people that support you proud.”

That included Wallace’s mother, Desiree, perhaps best known to NASCAR fans for her emotional embrace with her son after he finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500. In tears, Wallace told her that day that she acted like he had won that day.

“We did,” she said. “We did!”

Monday, Wallace, who turns 28 this week, could celebrate a win with her in a brief call that had both crying.

“She is the number one person that knows how hard I am on myself each and every weekend, each and every day,” Wallace said. “She is always sending me positive encouragement, scriptures, just always is holding that positive light.”

Wallace has needed it. He’s discussed his bouts with depression, noting that while he is a race car driver, he is human. 

He also knows he can be too emotional at times in the car. That’s something he and his team have worked on this season and seen progress.

Wallace was steely in the car as he raced for the lead Monday. Rain had already delayed the race for 18 minutes before halfway and again was on the radar as Wallace raced among the leaders.

This time, the race had gone past the halfway mark, so if it was stopped and couldn’t be resumed, it would be official.

Wallace ran led a line of cars with Brad Keselowski, the winningest active driver at Talladega with six victories, immediately behind. Keselowski slammed the back bumper of Wallace’s car. Keselowski eased back to get a run on Wallace. With rain imminent, the field raced as if it was the last lap instead of more than 70 laps to go.

“We’ve been beat by them guys for … four years,” said Freddie Kraft, Wallace’s spotter. “You learn what they’re doing. I’ve gotten better. He’s gotten better at it.

“You’ve got to see it before it’s happening. If you’re trying to react to it, it’s too late. You’ve got to see as soon as he’s backing up. You’ve got to react to that. The farther back you let him go, the farther out you get. They’re just going to have that much bigger run. You’re trying to see stuff and predict stuff before they do it.”

Nobody could predict when the rain would come.

“I was right behind Bubba and had a chance to make the move to take the lead, but just felt like it was a little too soon with four or five laps left in the stage, and I didn’t want to get swallowed back up, but I picked the wrong move,” Keselowski said.

A crash brought out the caution with Keselowski behind Wallace. Then the rain came. NASCAR sent the cars down pit road where Wallace waited. A crowd of photographers surrounded him. Hamlin stood nearby under an umbrella.

The rain turned to a drizzle and NASCAR began to dry the track. Wallace walked to his pit box and waited.

The rain returned. It would take too long for NASCAR to dry the track before darkness. Talladega does not have lights around its 2.66-mile speedway. The race was over after 117 of 188 laps.

NASCAR had a new winner.

“I’m not going to be able to please everybody,” Wallace said. “Doesn’t matter if I won by a thousand laps or won a rain-shortened race, not everybody is going to be happy with it.

“That’s OK. Because I know one person that is happy, and that’s me because I’m a winner and they’re not.”

Back in Danville, Virginia, Frank Scott got to enjoy a celebration he’d been waiting more than 50 years to see.

It came less than two months after the Scott family received a trophy that Wendell Scott should have been given for winning that Cup race in 1963.

As Frank Scott pondered what Wallace’s accomplishment meant to him, he thought back to something his father said.

“I think of perseverance and determination,” Frank Scott told NBC Sports. “It’s like my father said one time: He said ‘Quitting is not the plan.’ If anybody thinks I’m going to quit, they got a mistake coming.”

Then Frank Scott added: “You don’t quit. You keep going.”

Just as Bubba Wallace did Monday.

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas


NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin


NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place


Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).