Bubba Wallace won his first Cup Series trophy in the rain on Monday at Talladega. After the race, the 27-year-old driver reveled in his achievement and acknowledged how difficult it is to win against NASCAR’s top drivers. Not surprisingly, many of Wallace’s outspoken critics refused to accept the victory, questioning its legitimacy because it occurred in a rain-shortened race.
Interestingly, no one ever questioned Jeff Gordon during his five rain-shortened victories. It didn’t happen earlier this year when Chase Elliott won in wet conditions at COTA. A win is a win when NASCAR deems it official. Former Cup Series driver Rick Mast, who raced for 15 seasons, described this week how much a win would have meant in his career and graphically detailed the great lengths he would have gone to make it happen.
Bubba Wallace wins rain-shortened race and critics question its legitimacy
Bubba Wallace has had his doubters since he arrived on the NASCAR scene. Despite winning six times in the Truck Series, the critics persisted.
Since arriving full-time with the Cup Series in 2018, NASCAR’s most high-profile series, the criticism only intensified. It increased exponentially last year when Wallace spoke out on social justice issues, including the suggestion that NASCAR should ban the confederate flag, which it did.
Prior to Monday, the skeptics had focused on his wins, suggesting he didn’t have any talent, and his lack of wins proved it. Then Talladega happened. And unsurprisingly, those haters moved the goal post. They suggested the win wasn’t legit because it came in a rain-shortened race.
Rick Mast would have gone to great lengths just to have a single Cup Series win
Matt DiBenedetto is racing in his seventh season with the Cup Series. Zero wins. Daniel Suarez’s career timeline has been similar to Bubba Wallace. They raced against each other for a couple of seasons in the Xfinity Series, where Suarez won three times. Suarez started full-time Cup racing in 2017, a year before Wallace. He’s also in his first season with a new team. No wins.
The list goes on and on of drivers who are talented enough to win in the Cup Series but haven’t and would take a rain-shortened race win any day. This week, former driver Rick Mast, who won nine times with the Xfinity Series but went winless in 364 Cup races during a 15-year career, took to Twitter and made it clear how much any type of Cup win would have meant to him.
“For all the folks fussing about @BubbaWallace ‘rain shortened victory.’ I would’ve given my left nut for a rain shortened cup victory. Well, maybe only a part of my left nut.”
Denny Hamlin addresses Wallace’s critics
Denny Hamlin knows how hard it is to win at the Cup level. He talked about that and how hard Bubba Wallace and the No. 23 team have worked this year in the postrace press conference at Talladega. He also addressed those people who claim that a rain-shortened race win is not legitimate.
“Those people just need to grow up honestly and appreciate the accomplishment that the kid just had. He drove it to the front and the caution came out. There’s not much else you can do,” Hamlin said matter-of-factly. “I think people just have a microscope on him because they want to be critical and they just are a hater.”
Bubba Wallace will always have his critics. But now, he will always have a Cup Series win to his credit. And that’s something a lot of former drivers would do just about anything to achieve. Just ask Rick Mast.