It has been a hectic time for NASCAR drivers with multiple races during the week, but it has been especially hectic for Bubba Wallace.
Wallace has been outspoken about the social injustices in the United States while driving a ‘Black Lives Matter’ car in the last race at Martinsville along with calling for the ban of confederate flags at NASCAR events, which NASCAR agreed to do.
“It’s definitely been a lot,” Wallace said. “It’s mentally taxing, but it’s that part of the pedestal that you sign up for. It doesn’t say that on the front page on the book of being an athlete or an icon in the sport. It doesn’t say that on the front page of what you have to go through, it’s just a part of it. It’s in the fine print that you have to go through. When you sign up to become something, you’re signing up to become something larger than yourself, represent something more than yourself.”
Wallace, a 26-year old in his third full season in the NASCAR Cup Series who is in search for his first win, is adjusting to being in the spotlight and in a larger spotlight much bigger than just driving the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports, which he will do next at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday (3:30 p.m., FOX) at the Dixie Vodka 400
“It’s a part of it and I’m learning how to manage that along with the racing side of things,” Wallace said. “The on-track things I have to manage as well as manage what’s going on off the track. I would say off the track is a lot more busy, a lot more hectic. I’m thankful for no practice in the three-day shows that we’re used to because I’d be wiped out by practice time. It’s good to stay focused on this throughout the week, but you’ve got to do a quick mind shift going into the race. It’s challenging, but I’m learning every step of the way.”
And while it is a hectic time for Wallace, he has put together positive results including an 11th-place finish at Martinsville on Wednesday and a 10th-place finish at Bristol on May 31.
“I thought the way we fired off there (in Martinsville) I was like, ‘Oh snap this might be set up a beautiful ending or a beautiful beginning because I thought we’d go win the race with the speed we had in Martinsville,” Wallace said. “We kind of lost it halfway through and rallied back late. This was definitely the biggest race of my career and not knocking the Daytona 500 debut or even my Pocono debut in the 43 car, it was just so much historical impact and movement behind this race that we had just had that it overpowered everything else I’ve gone through.”
Wallace is taking great pride in being vocal.
“Standing up for what I believe is right in the world, that’s very important to me,” Wallace said. “Maybe I didn’t stand up in the past, but now is more than the time than ever to take leadership and to represent, not only myself, but the sport of NASCAR, my sponsors, my team, everybody involved that helps me get to the race track and keep my brain going. It’s something that’s hard to describe fully, but definitely the biggest race of my career so it felt like a win although we finished 11th. I don’t see that as a win, I see that as the 10th loser so we’ve got some work to do.”
Wallace is hoping to continue his string of racing towards the front as his two top-11 finishes in his last three races for the first time in his career has moved him into 20th in the Cup standings with the top 16 advancing to the playoffs in September as he searches for his first playoff appearance.
He has raced twice at Homestead in the Cup series, finishing 34th in 2019 and 21st in 2018.
“Homestead’s fun,” Wallace said. “It’s going to be different going at this time of year. Usually it’s the last race of the season so that’s a big change for the sport, but it should be good. The weather that I’ve seen doesn’t look too good, but it’s NASCAR so that’s about normal.”
With the race in June as opposed to November and an Xfinity Series race immediately before, it could provide different track conditions.
“It’s hot and slick and wore out and we’re going to be two tenths off our fastest lap by lap one-and-a-half,” Wallace said. “It’s definitely going to be treated the same there and we’ll be moving around a lot for grip and riding up along the fence. We’ll find out. Everything is kind of new to us. We’ll have some rub on the race track from the Xfinity cars so that will be interesting.”