Feb 14, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23) and his team stand for the national anthem before the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
February 15, 2021
(Reuters) – Bubba Wallace’s first race for the Michael Jordan-Denny Hamlin co-owned team got off to a rough beginning as he was forced to start at the rear for the Daytona 500 on Sunday after his car failed multiple pre-race inspection failures.
Wallace was originally set to begin the opening race of the 2021 NASCAR season from the sixth starting spot but his No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota failed inspection two times before finally passing on its third attempt.
NASCAR ejected the team’s car chief as a result of the multiple failures.
The setback followed an impressive build-up to the Daytona 500 for Wallace, who posted one of the fastest laps during the qualifying session and nearly captured the pole position.
Wallace’s car was one of 10 that were moved to the rear of the field for a variety of reasons.
Last September, Wallace was named as the driver for a new single-car team owned by basketball great Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Hamlin.
The only Black driver at NASCAR’s top level, Wallace was thrust into the spotlight last year when his calls for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag — which many Americans see as a symbol of oppression — at all events was ultimately adopted.
The driver was also later thought to have been a victim of a racial attack when a noose, a symbol connected to lynching and America’s slave history, was found in his garage.
An investigation later determined that the rope was actually a garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose that had been in the garage for months.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)