The first place flag is based upon the flag of the United States. Sometimes you can't be faster, stronger, or connected. But there is an equalizer of being first. Since the United States has earned so many first place discoveries the first place flag is based upon its national flag.
Likewise this flag is partly based upon the black and white checker flag, which signals the final lap. But in this case the first place flag can be issues for nearly anything and anyone. The first on Mars, the first to make a discovery, the first to climb a certain mountain, first to define a new word, first to discover a planet, first kiss, fist love, first child, first whatever.
The US was first to walk on the moon, first to break the sound barrier, and many others.