Hamilton sends his best to Darrell Wallace before Daytona 500

Hamilton sends his best to Darrell Wallace before Daytona 500

Hamilton sends his best to Darrell Wallace before Daytona 500

Darrell Wallace Jr. sobbed in his mother's arms after he posted the best finish for a black driver in the Daytona 500.

On the same weekend that the movie Black Panther shattered stereotypes and box office records, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. drove into the history books as the first African-American driver to race in the NASCAR Cup Series since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in 1971.

"It's a sensitive subject, but I'm just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years and I don't talk about it", Wallace said. You've just got to be relaxed for it the whole time.

"He just said, hey, good luck, and just have a good race today, and that was it, " Wallace said of his phone conversation with Aaron. "They might not even know it but I just want to make it proud".

"To be in that position, it takes me back to a week ago when Dale [Earnhardt Jr.] called me -- as soon as I landed here, he says, 'Hey, the next three or four weeks are going to be busy for you, ' and I'm like, yeah, no kidding, just come off a stressful night. So long", Desiree Wallace, Bubba's mother, said during their extended, tearful embrace.

And through tears of joy, accomplishment and challenges overcome, Wallace finally mustered, "Mom, you're acting like we just won the race".

Wallace, 24, hasn't shied away from the pressure of driving for NASCAR royalty, or the fame that comes with being a prominent black driver in an nearly exclusively white series.

Wallace's runner-up finish to Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500 suddenly felt like a checkered flag.

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"Really cool and really special for Hank Aaron also to call right before was really special and just knowing that people are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that's coming to NASCAR and they get behind it and support it", he added.

That enthusiasm is apparently so contagious it make an 80-year-old feel youthful. Wallace, the son of a black mother and a white father, cried with his mother and then with his sister on the stage. We wanted to run a lot of laps and not wreck the vehicle. It was the most exercise the octogenarian, who won seven Cup championships and is considered NASCAR royalty, had gotten in some time.

Well with all that, you get tears.

"No matter what the circumstances are, when you have family here and you run good and it's been a while since you've been somewhat competitive, it pulls on the heartstrings", Wallace said.

A large of part of Petty's enthusiam is the hope that his rookie driver can be the catalyst to turnaround a proud organization whose glory years are well in the rear-view mirror.

And if Sunday is any indication, Wallace and Petty gives the impression that they are an ideal combination.

"Good for Childress too because I can tell him we pushed him to it, " he said laughing. For the first time, we are pretty much on the same team.

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