BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS CAMARO ZL1 1LE, spoke with media via teleconference to discuss the upcoming eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, the Richard Petty Motorsports 43 Crew Challenge presented by U.S. Air Force, and more. Full Transcript:
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE UPCOMING 43 CREW CHALLENGE YOU HAVE GOING ON?
"That is different from iRacing; that’s actually on Nintendo Switch. We have been playing religiously about every weekend. We’ve actually gotten super competitive, almost unhealthy the way we play. We decided to make it fun. We’ve always kind of had this idea in the back of our heads, but it was always tough throughout the regular work week before all this coronavirus stuff happened. Now that we have some downtime, we decided to create a little challenge where fans get to race myself and five of my guys that are on my Richard Petty team. We feel like we’re pretty good. We definitely give each other a run for our money, so it’s tough for us to become teammates because all we want to do is talk crap to each other. At the end of the day, it makes it fun. We are going to change it up a little bit. I think we’re going to try to get the other competitors in our chat room as well and be able to stream that to hear everyone’s audio. So, it’ll be pretty cool."
WHAT IS THE FOCUS THAT IT TAKES TO RACE ON THE VIRTUAL TRACKS?
"It’s kind of crazy how focused and determined we are. On a sim, I don’t know if it’s my setup or my combination of wheel and pedals, but it’s super sketchy. You can make one little twitch in the wheel in real life and you know what’s going to happen. On this, you don’t know when it’s going to spin out. So, it’s kind of hard to judge that. By the time you find out, it’s almost a little too late. My wrists hurt so bad on virtual versus real life because I’m just trying not to do anything crazy or stupid with the wheel. Like I said, I don’t know what it’s going to do. You saw Ryan Preece go through the grass there and it was crazy how he saved in. I did the same thing, I don’t know at what point of the race it was, and I was about to break my whole simulator because I was shaking so hard to keep it underneath me. You definitely have to be focused. You saw Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) hit the wall in turn 4 and I was doing that a lot in the practice races, just because you’re like ‘OK, I’m going to exit the corner, I’m good’, but no it’s different. You have to stay focused the whole time."
WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE FOR BRISTOL? IF BOUNCING OFF THE WALL IS SO DIFFERENT ON THE SIMULATOR, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FOR BRISTOL?
"Bristol is going to be tough. You can kind of get away with it in real life. It’s tough; you hit the wall, you’re cutting a tire quick. But here, it depends on where you hit with the car, it really affects your performance pretty bad. So, it’s going to be tough. There are going to be a lot of close quarters racing. The guys on the bottom may have a little bit of an advantage because it’s so easy to get in contact. Still looking back at the replay of my wreck last weekend at Texas, it was so close that you’re dealing with lag and I felt like I wasn’t there underneath him, and all of a sudden, he was spun around. It’s those things that will take you out of contention quick. There’s definitely going to have to be a lot of give and take."
LOOKING AT YOU GUYS ON SOCIAL MEDIA, IT SEEMS LIKE THIS IS SOMETHING THAT’S CREATING A GOOD DISTRACTION AND POSITIVE DISTRACTION THROUGH THIS. DO YOU THINK THIS IS GOING TO MOVE THE DRIVER COMRADERY FORWARD IN THE SERIES AT ALL?
"No, because you’re still going to get mad at each other. You see (Danial) Suarez, for an example, when he spun, he pulled right back up on the race track. Obviously, he wouldn’t do that in real life, so it’s like why in the heck are you doing it on virtual. Yeah, it’s not going to hurt anybody, but you ruin somebody’s race. I don’t know if it’s going to make the comradery better. We still get mad and frustrated, so it’s just virtually versus real life."
WHAT DOES YOUR NORMAL DAY LOOK LIKE NOW?
"Man, it’s been tough. I’ve been very, very bored. I’ve been getting a lot done around the house actually. Amanda (Carter) has been here and she’s been working; she has to work everyday from home. So, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., she’s on the computer downstairs. She gets a little time away. In the last few days, we’ve been able to go out on walks throughout the neighborhood here. My allergies are really bad and it’s pollen season. I told her I’m not going outside again for like the next week; let me get through my allergies and we’ll be alright. Other than that, it’s a lot of time on iRacing. There are a bunch of different leagues that I’m joining in. I’m playing a lot of Call of Duty. I’m still kind of being a big kid at home. We’ll try to come up with dinner and lunch plans. We stay at the house as much as possible. I think we’ve quarantined ourselves pretty good. We were able to go over to her mom’s house yesterday for Amanda’s birthday. That’s about the only time we get out of the house, unless we need to go to the grocery store or something. Other than that, just trying not to go crazy. Keep your options open on whatever there is to do. We’ve been working on photography. I’ve been asking Amanda if I can take pictures of her. She was like ‘I brought some cute clothes’, so we were able to do that and just have fun. At the end of the day, you start to run out of ideas. You can only watch so many TV shows, you can only watch so much Tiger King. I only watched like thirty seconds of that and I was like ‘this is ridiculous’ (laughs). But all in all, just trying to keep it fun and light-hearted."
WHEN THIS IS OVER THIS, BACK TO RACING AND THE WORLD IS WORKING IT’S WAY BACK TO NORMAL, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE NEW NORMAL?
"Yeah, it’s tough. Obviously, just interacting with people, whether it’s pit crews, fans, whatever it is. We spread germs like no other. Before this pandemic, we were washing our hands and trying to be as clean as we could. But still, it’s crazy just how quick this spread and how quick the outbreak was, I think we’re going to be a lot more on top of things now. So, the interactions may decrease a little bit, which I think people understand that. We don’t want to shoo away anybody, but when you’re not feeling alright or something, we’ve got to do a better job of social distancing ourselves to not let this happen again. I think as far as racing, it’s going to be action-packed. NASCAR is doing everything they can to get a full season in. I know states are pushing different boundaries and adding new rules. Virginia just announced theirs until June 10th, which is crazy, but that’s what we’re following. We’re following the CDC and what the government says. So, it’s going to be tough, but hopefully we can get it all in and get going."
AS THE IRACING GOES ON, IT SEEMS TO BE GETTING MORE COMPETITIVE. DO YOU THINK TEMPERS MIGHT FLARE A LITTLE MORE?
"Yeah, for sure. At the end of the day, we’re all competitors. It’s funny, I can sit there and try to become third perspective for a second while I’m driving, and be like ‘Man, we’re taking it super serious’. But at the end of the day, I hope the next time we interact with somebody in real life, that’s not going to carry over. It would be like ‘Hey man, you wrecked me on iRacing’. But it’s like, ‘Cool bro, you had a reset button. Did you get hurt? Did it cost you any money?’. No, so at the end of the day, it’s a video game and there’s no blood, sweat or tears. But you do put a lot of time into it, so to have somebody wreck you out or cost you a race is frustrating. But we’re putting on a show for the fans and doing some things that wouldn’t really happen in real life, so it’s a little bit different. Definitely a lot of people are getting more serious, practicing every day. So, it’s pretty cool and shows how competitive we are."
WITH NASCAR INTENDING TO GET ALL THE RACES IN, THAT LIKELY MEANS SOME COMPRESSION IN THE SCHEDULE. JUST CURIOUS OF YOUR ANTICIPATION OF TRYING SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN TALKED ABOUT FOR AWHILE, BUT NOW IT MIGHT BE FORCED UPON US. MAYBE MID-WEEK RACES, MORE DOUBLEHEADERS.
"Yeah, for sure. I think it would be sick, honestly. Just for example, Martinsville, obviously with the new rules throw that out the window, but say start at Martinsville. Then, that Wednesday we go to Atlanta and come back and run Charlotte. Then, the next Wednesday, run Bristol or something. I know we have to keep it in the same area because it would be really tough on teams getting to and from the race track. If we went from Martinsville to California, that would not work. But yeah, it’s going to be tough. I definitely don’t want to be in NASCAR’s shoes and the tracks’ shoes trying to figure all that out. All kudos to them for going through that headache. But I think the plan they will come up will be good and best suited for us and the fans. I think it would be cool; action-packed and worn out. But that’s kind of how it was. I remember during the summer months, being 9 or 10 years old, we were in Charlotte Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we were in Atlanta, and Friday and Saturday it was either Kentucky or Nashville. Those were the fun days of just sleeping in the back of the pickup truck and the next thing you know, you wake up at a new race track and do it all over again."
CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH ALL THE PIECES TO YOUR SIM SETUP AND HOW MUCH DID YOU GET THAT FOR?
"I had a room above my garage that was completely empty when I bought it from the previous house owner. They were like we didn’t really know what to do with it, and I was like ‘Man, I can turn this into a game room’. It’s isolated for the rest of the house, so I can be as loud as I want. I had bought a counter-top from IKEA. My neighbor actually helped me cut it up and get the dimensions right so I could have one part of my desk where I can sit down and play Call of Duty and stuff like that. Then, off to the side in the corner, there’s another part of the desk with another monitor set up for iRacing. I have my sim rig over there. I bought my rig a couple of years ago. I can’t remember the exact brand of it, but it was a couple hundred bucks. Then, my steering wheel and stuff is pretty expensive. That’s up in the couple grand or so. All in all, I’m in the $4,000 to $5,000 range, if you think about my computer and monitor setup. It’s funny, because you see these guys’ sims. I was actually able to meet Chad Wheeler and he does a lot of rigs for a lot of guys; Clint Bowyer, he does the FOX one, he’s got Dale Jr.’s. I was able to meet him and I was like ‘Man, I might need to be talking to you’. My rig is completely fine, but these are super nice. But we’ll see."
WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM YOUR FRIENDS IN ALABAMA ABOUT THE SIM RACING?
"Alabama, I have no idea. I haven’t been to Alabama since I was two-years-old. My uncle still lives down there, and him and my aunt tune in every Sunday to watch it virtually. It’s crazy; I was sitting here talking to Amanda. The first race that was at Homestead, all we knew was FOX was going to air it and whatnot. We sat there and watched the broadcast of the race; they’re doing the National Anthem, they have Billy from MRO come through and do the invocation. We were like ‘holy cow, this is serious, this is awesome!’. It’s cool how we are transitioning into the world and putting on a show. We were really doing it just to have fun and give the fans something to watch. We’ve been doing this for a while, but for FOX to step up and broadcast it. You joke about it now, but TV runs the schedule in real life. We’re sitting there waiting for command and commercial breaks. It’s the same thing. All in all, it’s good for the sport and a good time. They enjoy it."
IS THERE A TRACK THAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VIRTUALLY?
"The road courses are a lot easier on virtual because you can crash, reset, know what to do now and get new tires every time. It’s definitely not that easy in real life. But it’s different; some of the favorite tracks I have in real life are based off of the feel, speed and whatnot. Examples would be Bristol and Dover. Going through the corners there at Martinsville, you can show up there, have a lot of success and feel good. It’s different, going against guys that I know I can out-run in real life. You jump on the sim and they’ve been doing it everyday for the last three years, they go out and out-run you. So, it’s different; it’s totally different. You figure out the ins and the outs of being fast and good at these tracks virtually. But all and all, all of them are fine because you get the reset button and you get to try new things that you wouldn’t try in real life."
THE NUMBER OF LAPS IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A FEW MORE LAPS OR DOES IT SORT OF TIGHTEN UP THE INTENSITY OF THE COMPETITION?
"No, I think the number of laps have been good. To be honest with you, I hadn’t been on iRacing in about six to eight months. It’s been kind of the cycle where I’ll jump on for a week and then I’ll get burnt out, and I won’t jump on for six to eight months. It’s been like that for a couple of years. That’s the point where I’m getting right now. I jumped on when we first announced that we were going to run for Homestead. I started racing every night with sprint cars, late models, all that stuff. Now, the only time I’ll get on is to practice a little bit and run the official races that we run on Sunday’s. It’s definitely good for me; I like the number of laps. It’s just long enough because you get to play a little bit of strategy, so we go 100 percent for the full race."
DO YOU SEE THIS AS A VENUE TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE WITH DRIVERS THAT HAVE HAD SUCCESS IN THE SPORT, BUT NOW YOU CAN DO IT VIRTUALLY WHEN IN THE REAL WORLD, IT WOULDN’T BE PRACTICAL?
"Yeah, it gives them an opportunity to jump back in and jump into the sim world to give them a taste of that. It’s cool to have Bobby (Labonte) in there and whatnot. Racing against Dale (Earnhardt Jr.), I know he’s been doing it for a while. Still, it’s cool to see that. It just gives them a chance to be a kid and get the action for racing underneath them."
A FEW WEEKS AGO, AT CALIFORNIA, YOU AND A COUPLE OTHER DRIVERS WERE ABLE TO HONOR KOBE BRYANT AND THE OTHER VICTIMS OF THE HELICOPTOR CRASH. OVERALL, WHAT DID THAT TRIBUTE AND THAT WHOLE WEEKEND MEAN TO YOU?
"That was a special weekend. (Ryan) Blaney had his car, and so did (William) Byron. We had the names and decals on our car. It was special. I remember when it happened, my mom had called me. You could tell she was very upset with just the tone in her voice. She was like ‘hey, did you hear the news’, and I was like ‘no, what happened’. I think I had just woken up from a nap to be honest. She was like Kobe Bryant died and I hung up immediately, got on social media, saw the news and immediately started sobbing. Seeing all the hits on Sport Center and all the news outlets about Kobe Bryant, how it impacted globally, just really makes you think about how big of an icon and person that we was to everybody, not just the sports world. We definitely lost a great one; one of the greatest of all-time for sure. It was super sad to see and just unfortunate. All of the other victims and his little girl, that was tough to swallow. The whole accident was just super tough, so we thought it would be cool for us to honor everybody there on our race car and show that we’re still thinking about them. There’s not a day that goes by that you get on Instagram or Twitter and there’s some Kobe highlight or some kind of Gigi highlight that brings you back and puts you in your feels again. So, it’s still tough to think about. It was cool to see the impact that he had globally; it just makes you want to try that much harder to be that type of person when you retire and leave your legacy behind."
ABOUT THESE MID-WEEK RACE POSSIBILITES, TALK ABOUT PHYSICAL FITNESS OF DRIVERS AND ENDURANCE, DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT BREAK YOU DOWN A LITTLE BIT OVER THE COURSE OF TRYING TO SQUEEZE IN ALL 36 RACES IN?
"Yeah, it will for sure wear you out. It’s definitely going to be tough on the physical side of things and mental side of things too. You’re really going to have to position yourself to have the endurance. I’ve definitely been hitting the gym here at the house more than I have in a year or so. We don’t know the exact schedule yet and what’s going to happen, but we have to plan for the most strenuous schedule as possible. Getting the upper body right, getting the cardio right and just making sure we can last. It shouldn’t be a problem; we’ll get that day or two reset in between to gain your stamina, confidence and your physical abilities back. It’ll definitely be tough, but it’ll get myself in shape and that’ll be nice."
TALK ABOUT THE MARIO KART RACING.
"You definitely learn a lot. It’s funny; it’s like who are we racing against this week? You’ll seem them take a shortcut and it’s like ‘whoa, where did that come from?’. Or they’ll somehow get to that corner better than you. So, for me, I’m always analyzing the people I’m racing around, how they’re doing this and how they’re doing that. When are they drifting, when are they using their mushrooms, you’re always analyzing. It’s almost unhealthy how much we’re taking a game like Mario Kart into consideration of how to be better at, but hey I’m competitive and I want to win in everything. I don’t care if it’s Mario Kart, iRacing or real life, it’s a racing game that I have a huge passion for."
— Team Chevy —