What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Bubba Wallace’s mother, Desiree, hopes her son’s second-place finish at Daytona quiets the boo birds

‘Wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready’

10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

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10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”