Daytona 500: Bubba Wallace Becomes First Black Driver to Lead Lap at Race

Bubba Wallace didn't win the Daytona 500. But the 27-year-old driver still made history, becoming the first Black driver to lead a lap at "The Great American Race," according to the Associated Press. On lap 129, Wallace, who was driving the No. 23 Toyota for Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, grabbed the lead on Lap 129. However, he lost to lead to Hamlin and ran third at the end of the second stage.

In the final lap, Wallace was caught up in a fiery crash and finished 17. The race was won by Michael McDowell, his first NASCAR Cup Series race win in 358 races. After the Daytona 500, Wallace went to Twitter to express his frustration on how the race ended.

"Bum end," Wallace tweeted. "I bailed out down the back, saw the wreck happening and got run over from behind. Should’ve bailed sooner. Fast car, can’t have loose wheels. Onto the right turns." Wallace finished second in the Daytona 500 in 2018, the highest finish in the race by a Black driver. Before the 2021 race, the No. 23 Toyota failed inspection twice, leading NASCAR to kick the team's car chief out off the grounds. The car passed on the third attempt, but Wallace had to start from the back of the 40-car field.

With 22 laps remaining, Wallace took a pit stop because he felt a vibration because of the loose when felt in the car. After falling a lap down, he pushed Hamlin to take the lead to win his third consecutive Daytona 500. Hamlin ended up finishing fifth.

Jordan, who co-owns 23XI Racing with Hamlin, was in attendance and revealed he met Wallace this week for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I feel like he's going to learn how to win. He's got the talent,'' Jordan told Fox Sports. "We would not have invested in him and picked him if he didn't have the talent to win. By the end of the year, I think he's going to have an opportunity and probably will win at least a couple of races. If it's more, I'd be elated.'' Wallace previously raced for Richard Petty Motorsports and was winless in 112 Cup Series events.