Though he finished runner-up in the Daytona 500, Sunday was a day of many firsts for Bubba Wallace.
Wallace, the first full-time African-American driver since Wendell Scott's last complete season in 1971, received a call from Hank Aaron before the race and received a tweet - and a follow - from four-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who also is black.
Then after an exchange of I love you's and a hug with his older sister, the 24-year-old driver for Richard Petty Motorsports tried to put into words what it meant to finish second in NASCAR's biggest race following a year where his place within the sport was uncertain because he lacked sponsorship. An emotional Wallace entered the media center after Austin Dillon drove Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 to Victory Lane and was met with a huge embrace from his mother, Desiree, as well as his older sister.
"I'm so proud of you babe", Wallace's mom, Desiree, said, per ESPN. "We did win that race baby, we did".
It appears that Bubba was already emotional when he sat down for his the post-race press conference in the media room, but then his mother walked in and he did what any good son would do.
In his first race, Wallace finished second in the 60th Daytona 500, behind victor Austin Dillon. He topped the speed chart at practice, qualified seventh and was a fixture on social media pushing his new show on the Facebook Watch show page.
"I know a lot of people have given him not a lot of credit in the offseason", Blaney said.More news: Hyperloop One In India - Futuristic High-Speed Transportation Coming To India
Darrell Wallace Jr. let the weight of his milestone in the Daytona 500 wallop him once he saw mom. "Knowing we're a smaller-budget team, we have a lot of poise and a lot of attitude and a lot of stuff to fight for this year". The rise of social media has made it easier for hate to spread, and a high school football coach in Wisconsin resigned past year for a series or racist tweets aimed at Wallace.
Bubba stepped into the media room to address the press with a towel in his hands, presumably to blot the perspiration after spending more than three hours behind the wheel of a hot auto on a hotter track in Florida.
He won six times in 45 starts in the Truck Series, went 0 for 85 in the second-level Xfinity Series and improved each race (26th-19th-15th-11th) in Cup when he raced for the injured Aric Almirola.
"He didn't say change this or do this", Petty said. "I hope he can continue to do that".
"This weekend, it's more of a comfort feeling".
Bubba will be a rock star and bring many new fans to NASCAR racing going forward in 2018.
Patrick starts 28th on Sunday.