Wow…the last three days pretty much summed up in one word.
It began with rain, then it became race, followed by unification, then actual on-track racing, and finally it has become about revelation, and acceptance.
How try and sum up Talladega and not have the main story be the on-track action is hard, but the reality is it was everything outside of the action that once again took the headlines. Even the rain that fell on Sunday that officially moved the race to the next day was a minor story to follow, but the revelations that have come in the last several hours have certainly done that, and then some.
That said, it doesn’t take away from the moment prior to the race that showed how much of a family the NASCAR community. Everyone in NASCAR, when the pandemic first took the sport away, stayed true to each other even though everyone was apart, and not anywhere near a race track. When they returned, it was a family reunion, with limitations no less, but still felt that everyone was there supporting one another.
In Atlanta, that resolve stood true when the racing community stood as one, and vowed to push forward and overcome hate, disgrace, and instead bring about understanding, and knowledge.
On Monday, however, was the biggest statement they had given yet.
One man in the entire garage has been able to bring the NASCAR community together, and push for change, and make it so that the sport moves away from it’s past roots, and becomes an all-inclusive group. That’s not to say it hasn’t been for years, as we’ve seen the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Max Papis, Patrick Carpentier, and Daniel Suarez open the door for minorities in the sport. One can even look at how Danica Patrick, Janet Guthrie, and now Hailie Deegan continue to break barriers for women in the sport.
However, the statement made Monday, after a suspected hate symbol was found, made the biggest statement and one cannot help but be moved to tears.
Think about it for a second; Bubba Wallace pushed to truly create change in the sport, and the sport listened. It’s not that they didn’t before, but now it’s not just about one man making strides, but now how one man can unite an entire community and now all can make strides.
That is exactly what it seemed to feel like when Wallace was in tears as every driver pushed his car to the lead position before engines fired, and showed him, “We are one…and we stand with you.” It doesn’t matter what political side you are on, what your beliefs are on the confederate flag, or anything else regarding the country; in that instance, everyone was standing with a fellow driver, a friend, and in a sense, a leader.
Once all that was done, the actual racing on the track at Talladega was, in a sense, surprising.
We all expect the “Big One” to take place at some point, yet at race’s end, it truly never did. There were torn up cars, but only because of small incidents. It felt surreal, but in the end the expected organization that has seemed to got a grip on this newer style of superspeedway racing won. The best part is that the driver who was honored prior to the green flag…had the best connection with the race winner.
It is no secret in the garage area that Wallace and Ryan Blaney are as close as brothers, so seeing him take the victory, and then Wallace be the first one to give his congrats.
What better feeling than honoring your best friend before the race, then in the end take home the win and he return the favor.
This article is not about what came about today, although surprising, and maybe a bit confusing is the best way to describe it. However, the reality is now the sport must continue to make strides forward, because there are more races on the schedule. For now, it’s time to park it, until Saturday at Pocono.