Other Sports

Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR race at Talladega after show of support for Bubba Wallace

usatsi_14447789.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR race at Talladega after show of support for Bubba Wallace

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- Ryan Blaney held onto the lead after a restart with two laps to go Monday, earning his second straight win at Talladega Superspeedway on a day that began with NASCAR drivers throwing their support behind Bubba Wallace.

Blaney nipped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the finish line for his fourth win and first since Talladega in October, albeit this time before a mostly empty venue. It was a race marked by support for Wallace instead of another Big One at Talladega, though there was mayhem behind Blaney on the final lap and he also pushed Erik Jones into the wall near the finish.

"Just trying to block, block the best we could," Blaney said. "Block the top, block the bottom ... just beating and banging to the line. "

Aric Almirola spun at the end and crossed the line almost backward.

The racing was overshadowed by an extraordinary act of solidarity with NASCAR's only Black driver. Dozens of drivers pushed Wallace's car to the front of the field before Monday's race as FBI agents tried to find out who left a noose in his garage stall over the weekend.

He was emotional after finishing 14th and spending time in the top five, slapping hands with a group of mostly African-American fans.

"It's just been hectic, you know, carrying this weight," said Wallace, who leaned into the car of Blaney, his best friend.

The stock car series was left reeling and angered by the racist act that came less than two weeks after it banned the Confederate flag on its properties at Wallace's urging. It has vowed to permanently bar the person responsible, but the investigation was in its early stages.

The 26-year-old Wallace was surrounded by all 39 other drivers in the moments before the race and they were joined by their crews in a march down pit road as they pushed his No. 43 to the front of the line. Wallace climbed out of his car and wept.

It was a stirring move to support Wallace at a track in the heart of the South where Confederate flags have flown for decades and were seen outside the superspeedway all weekend long by fans opposed to NASCAR's ban.

Standing alongside Wallace for the national anthem was Richard Petty, the 82-year-old Hall of Fame driver known as "The King." Wallace drives for Petty, who issued a scathing rebuke after the noose was found that called for the "sick person" to be expelled from NASCAR forever -- a move NASCAR President Steve Phelps insisted would happen should they be caught.

The race began with Martin Truex Jr. on the pole, and Tyler Reddick won the first stage, which ended in a weather caution that lasted 58-plus minutes.

The crowd had dwindled significantly from Sunday, when up to 5,000 fans were allowed into Talladega -- only the second race with fans since NASCAR returned from the pandemic-forced shutdown. Workers painted "(hash)IStandWithBubbaWallace" on the infield grass before the race and Confederate flags were nowhere to be seen inside the sprawling facility that can hold 80,000-plus and usually sees dozens of RVs lined up across the infield.

In the stands, fan Luke Johnson said he is against the flag ban, saying: "All the NASCAR tracks need to keep on flying them."

As for the noose left for Wallace, he said: "I thought it was funny myself."

Another fan, Robert Chaisson, said he didn't have a strong opinion on the ban. He certainly did on what happened to Wallace.

"That was messed up. I hope they charge that guy with a hate crime," Chaisson, who lives in Alabaster, Alabama, said. "It doesn't matter what your opinion is, it's when you cross that line, then your opinion no longer matters. That's trying to inflict harm on someone else."

In The Loop: Larry Fitzgerald is the ultimate leader, Kingsbury admits draft photo was staged

In The Loop: Larry Fitzgerald is the ultimate leader, Kingsbury admits draft photo was staged

First up in our look around the sports world is this act of leadership by Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The 17-year veteran was spotted carrying his own equipment at training camp. Something we all know is usually the rookies' job. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Larry.

 

Sticking with the Arizona Cardinals organization, the secret is out! Remember head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s epic draft night picture that went viral? Well, Kingsbury recently admitted that it was in fact staged. Hey, could've fooled me!


 

Lastly, is this one of the sickest lacrosse goals of all time? I'm not sure but it does get our vote! I mean c'mon, backward between the legs, just like he drew it up in practice!

In The Loop: NBA bubble dance battle, 'I Promise' school student in virtual stands

In The Loop: NBA bubble dance battle, 'I Promise' school student in virtual stands

First up in our look around the sports world, in the virtual stands last night during the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers game, students from LeBron's 'I Promise' school in Akron, Ohio appeared to cheer on their role model.

 


 

Next up, a dance battle was in full effect in the NBA bubble as Boston Celtics center Taco Fall, who was born in Senegal, shows off his best dance moves. If we're being honest, at 7'5" he can really get down!


 

Lastly, how cool is this... just six years ago Eddy Alvarez won a silver medal for speed skating at the Sochi Olympics and just yesterday he had his MLB debut as the Miami Marlins third baseman. That’s the inspiration all of us were looking for and needed today.