23XI Racing has officially reached Victory Lane for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series. Heavy rainfall at Talladega Superspeedway on October 4 forced NASCAR to call the YellaWood 500 after 117 laps, giving Bubba Wallace his first career Cup Series victory.
The top drivers headed to Talladega Superspeedway to complete the rain-delayed YellaWood 500. They managed to complete the first stage and most of the second before a wreck brought out the caution flag. Chris Buescher sent Ryan Preece into the wall, sparking an incident that also collected William Byron. The drivers continued to circle the track under caution until heavy rainfall forced NASCAR to throw the red flag. They headed down pit road and waited for a ruling about whether they would continue or head back to their haulers.
NASCAR attempted to dry the track while Wallace nervously sat with his team, but the rain picked up on pit road. The sanctioning body ultimately decided to declare the race official, prompting a massive celebration from the 23XI Racing team and co-owner Denny Hamlin. Several other drivers also joined in the celebration or offered their congratulations, including Kurt Busch, Corey LaJoie, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott.
The race was historic for both the driver and the crew chief. Wallace secured his first career Cup Series race, as well as a guaranteed spot in the 2022 All-Star Race. Crew Chief Robert “Bootie” Baker also secured his first win at NASCAR’s top level, snapping a 483-race winless streak. Finally, Wallace broke the 441-race McDonald’s curse in which drivers with the Golden Arches on their stock cars went winless.
Wallace is the first Black driver to win a Cup Series race since 1963. The only other driver to do so was Wendell Scott, who captured the checkered flag on Dec. 1, 1963, in Jacksonville, Fla.
Wallace Made Moves Late to Secure His Win
The drivers did not complete all 188 of the scheduled laps, but Wallace made the moves when necessary to move through the field and secure his spot at the front of the pack. For example, Wallace stayed out on the track following the Lap 98 wreck to gain position.
Wallace nearly did not get the opportunity to stay out on the track. He almost became involved in the massive wreck. However, he dove low to avoid Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman, and several other drivers. Wallace narrowly avoided the wreck and continued with the remainder of the race while several of his peers headed to pit road.
Once the race went green on Lap 104, Wallace began pushing for a spot at the front of the pack. He jumped to the front and moved back and forth between lanes to block his fellow drivers while leading a total of five laps. He held off Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kurt Busch among others until Lap 116 when another wreck brought out the caution flag for the final time.
Multiple Playoff Drivers Sustained Damage During Incidents
The early portions of the YellaWood 500 featured a surprising lack of cautions. The drivers avoided collisions during the majority of Stage 1, only heading down pit road during the competition caution. However, the situation changed on Lap 56.
Justin Allgaier brought out the first caution while driving the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet. William Byron pushed Allgaier, who lost control and spun sideways into Kyle Larson, damaging the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The regular-season points champion had to head down pit road several times so the team could make repairs. Larson also brought out the caution for a second time after a shredded tire left debris on the track.
Larson was not the only member of HMS to sustain damage in a wreck. Alex Bowman crashed on Lap 98 after an “accordion effect” disrupted his afternoon. The driver of the No. 48 had the lead at the time, but teammate Chase Elliott pushed Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who pushed Bowman. The collision sent the No. 48 hard into the wall, destroying the front of the stock car. The wreck also collected playoff drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
While Bowman went to the infield care center, Busch and Truex headed down pit road. They were both able to get back onto the track after the incident and continue in the race. Though Busch had to make multiple trips down pit road for repairs to the No. 18 Toyota Camry.
The final wreck of the day that brought out the caution flag sent William Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet spinning into the wall on Lap 116. The playoff driver finished the day 36th overall and well below the playoff cutline heading toward the Charlotte Roval cutoff race.