NASCAR hot shot Bubba Wallace, who’s been behind the wheel of fast cars since the age of 9, said being a Black man driving in a Southern-bred sport hasn’t been easy.
And during Black History Month, his story will come to life for viewers in a six-part docuseries, “RACE: Bubba Wallace,” airing on Netflix beginning February 22.
People who know the NASCAR champ, William Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., including his family, fiancé, racing team members, team owners and racing competitors, comment on Wallace’s determination, commitment to excellence and his positive spirit in the docuseries.
Wallace, 28, counts as just the fourth Black NASCAR driver in contemporary history. Those who paved the way include: Wendall Scott, Willy Ribbs and Bill Lester. They, like Wallace, faced numerous challenges but stayed the course because they wanted to be accepted by their peers and the racing community. Even more, they wanted to win.
“I’m just like everybody else but we’re just drivers in the end,” Wallace said in the documentary.
However, in contrast to Blacks who came before him, “RACE” reveals the impact that global news coverage and social media, especially comments on Twitter, have had on Wallace. He said he’s heard it all including statements like, “NASCAR is using Bubba as the token Black racer,” “We’re no longer fans of NASCAR.” “We don’t like you.”
Despite such negative comments, Wallace has attracted the attention of high-ranking figures in NASCAR including Joe Gibbs, former coach for the Washington Commanders, and the owner of the successful Joe Gibbs Racing team. Wallace was recruited for NASCAR’s diversity program started by Gibbs, former NFL player Reggie White and the NBA’s Magic Johnson. His progress continued with Richard “The King” Petty’s racing team bringing him on board to replace an injured driver.
And while many Black athletes try to remain focused on winning and avoid speaking out on race issues, Wallace took a stand in 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery shook Blacks across the nation and protests and marches began to spring up in cities in the U.S. and abroad.
On the day before he would compete in a NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 7, 2020, Wallace decided to wear a shirt which read, “I Can’t Breath/Black Lives Matter.” He informed his team of his plan and said they supported his decision.
“This puts the ball in the court of anybody who has a problem with this because I don’t want to be associated with you,” he would say following the public act of support for Black activism.
But he received encouragement.
“To be a Black man in that NASCAR space, he knew he was putting himself out there,” said comedian, producer and director W. Kamau Bell. “It’s brave.”
Things heated up when asked by CNN’s Don Lemon, “To have NASCAR come out, what’s the next action?”
Wallace said fans should feel comfortable when attending a NASCAR event and proposed one immediate way to ease the fears of Blacks who may want to enjoy the races.
“So, it starts with the Confederate flag. Get them out of here,” he said in the first episode of the docuseries.
The Washington Informer
Twitter and Instagram: @washinformer
Twitter and Instagram: @bcscomm
Twitter and Instagram @bubbawallace
23XI, Bubba Wallace’s Racing Team owned by Michael Jordan
Twitter and Instagram: @23XIRacing
Twitter and Instagram: @netflix