Bubba Wallace Jr. is quickly becoming a celebrity in the sport of NASCAR with his youth, second place finish at last year’s Daytona 500 and new sponsorship by AfterShokz. There is a lot to know about this rookie, just starting his sophomore season this year. Not the least of which is the fact that Wallace is only the eighth African-American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series and the first full-time African-American driver since Wendell Scott, who retired in 1973.
So here’s what you need to know – and why you should keep your eye on – Darrell “Bubba” Wallace.
Mom, Dad and sis
Wallace grew up in Concord, North Carolina, with parents who were very supportive of his sport. His father, Darrell Sr., was even Wallace’s first title sponsor. During his early years, Wallace raced Go-Karts, dirt bikes, Bandoleros and pickup trucks. His parents divorced when he was young, but the family stayed close together. And while his mom was a NASCAR fan, she wasn’t so sure when Wallace himself wanted to move up into the sport. The lack of other minority drivers combined with the dangers of race car driving made it tough for her to watch, initially. However, her son’s commitment to the sport and the acceptance he received helped her to come around.
Wallace’s sister, Brittany, has been given credit for giving him nickname “Bubba” – although the family doesn’t have a specific reason why she chose that name. And one could say that she is at least part of the reason Wallace started racing. While Brittany and her mom were away traveling to her AAU basketball tournaments, Wallace’s dad decided to introduce his son to racing. Growing up on four acres with plenty of woods to race around in, Wallace got hooked. He and his dad would even take advantage of snow days and take their four-wheelers to the local high school track to race. Eventually moving on to NASCAR was a logical next step.
The Face of Petty Motorsports
Wallace’s rookie season was strong. Aside from his second place finish at the Daytona 500, he finished runner-up to William Byron for Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Wallace also posted two other top-ten finishes driving the iconic No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Wallace feels honored to be chosen as the face of Petty Motorsports. Being around Petty on a regular basis and driving No. 43 has been a thrill. In a recent interview, Wallace shared that the decision to go with a rookie for the signature spot was a new experience for Petty Motorsports.
“There were a lot more wrecks because of me, and a lot more hiccups and mistakes on my end. But they were all accepting of that at the beginning of the season. It was nice to know we had the backbone and support even through the hiccups.”
In his 2018 rookie season, Wallace competed in 37 Cup Series races resulting in a top-five and two top-10 finishes. He also has a total of six Gander Outdoors Truck Series wins, becoming the first African American since Wendell Scott to win a NASCAR race, when he went to Victory Lane at Martinsville in 2013.
At the time of this article, Wallace has had two starts for 2019 and is currently ranked 31, after finishing 6th in the pre-season Gander RV Duels.
Wallace’s impact on the sport
That Wallace is making a splash in the NASCAR world is obvious. But for him, it’s more than just being a new and exciting driver. He acknowledges that he is the only African American driver at the top level of the sport. The one and only. With that statistic, comes a desire to grow the NASCAR fan base to a more diverse audience. Wallace says he has enough pressure to go out and perform at each race…so he doesn’t put additional pressure on himself when it comes to representing black culture in the sport. He knows it will take time, but he hopes to see a more diverse crowd at the racetracks with each race.
Wallace knows what Scott went through during his racing days, but for himself, the sport has only been accepting and inclusive.
And the accolades have been pouring in:
- Named one of the “50 Most Influential in Sports Culture” by Bleacher Report
- Highlighted as one of the “World’s Most Marketable Athletes” by SportsPro
- Honored by Ebony Magazine by being named to its “Power 100” list
In a press release shared in an article by The Drive, Wallace shared what an honor it was to be recognized in the company of others within the African American community.
“It’s humbling to join a list of the other star athletes, artists and community and national leaders. I’m just trying to be the best driver that I can be and focus on winning races for Richard Petty Motorsports and our partners. To be recognized for some of our accomplishments this season is an honor and I’d like to thank Ebony for the recognition.”
We’re keeping an eye on this exciting new driver and can’t wait to see what he does on the track this racing season!
For a look back on Wallace’s 2018 season from his perspective, check out this video on the NASCAR website.
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