BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 VICTORY JUNCTION CAMARO ZL1 1LE, met with media and discussed the things that have happened this past week, the demands on his time, the importance of bringing new fans to the sport of NASCAR, and more.
THE LAST FEW WEEKS WITH EXTRA DISTRACTIONS, BUT ALSO LOOKED UPON AS A SPOKESPERSON AND SYMBOL. WITH ALL THAT RESPONSIBILITY, HOW ARE YOU NAVIGATING THAT?
“It’s just another day. The clock resets at midnight every night and we’ll go through whatever is on the schedule then and I’m just excited to get back in the race car come tomorrow. But we’ve got media in between then and now, so we’ll see.”
WHEN YOU RAN OVER TO THE FENCE (POST-RACE) ON MONDAY AND THERE WERE A GROUP OF BLACK FANS THERE TO GREET YOU AND IT SEEMED LIKE THEY CAME JUST TO SEE YOU. IT’S ONLY BEEN A SHORT TIME SINCE THE CONFEDERATE FLAG ISSUE HAS COME UP WITH YOU, BUT HAVE YOU FOUND MORE BLACK FANS OR PEOPLE WHO SEEM INTERESTED IN NASCAR THAT WEREN’T BEFORE?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think just from the following standpoint, it’s been pretty big. Before all the chaos and madness started a couple of weeks ago at Atlanta and Martinsville and now this, it was like 180 thousand fans on Instagram and now I’m at 450 thousand, or something like that. I don’t know. A lot of people of color are coming out and saying that they’re going to be watching for the first time and have been watching since; so yeah, I think there’s a huge following that we will see and I’m excited to see when the full racing schedule gets back to normal from COVID to allow fans to come back in full capacity and see a new face there. That was pretty damn cool to see that new crowd there at Talladega with all the support. So, we’ll see how it continues to grow.”
WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU TO BE A LEADER IN CHANGE? AND CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE ANY NEW COOL CARS FROM YOU LIKE THE ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’?
“I don’t know if anybody has inspired me. I think it’s just what I feel in my heart and what feels right and finally voicing my opinion on the tough subjects that a lot of people are afraid to touch on. I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I’ve done it and gotten in trouble and learned from it. So, people that know me, I’m 100 percent raw and real. I’ve told you that before, as well. As far as another paint scheme, I’m not sure. That was an unsponsored race where we paid out of pocket for that one and basically took a bet on ourselves and took a chance on ourselves and that was big. I think with all this stuff we’re starting to get some partners involved and who knows if we’ll have another unsponsored race this year. If so, we’ll see what we can do.”
WITH EVERYTHING THAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING, IT’S VERY IMPRESSIVE, WHEN YOU ACTUALLY GET INTO THE RACE CAR, DO YOU HAVE TO FLIP A SWITCH AND CHANGE YOUR MINDSET THAT IT’S RACE TIME. HOW ARE YOU STAYING FOCUSED DURING THE RACE?
“I’ve always said there’s that concrete wall around the race track and you don’t want to hit that. And, I’ve hit this wall pretty hard that we’re going through this weekend. So, I know what that feels like. But, through it all, we’ve got to have good finishes. We’ve got to have a good season and we’re still continuing to have that. We’re running in the top 15 most e very weekend. That’s about seven to 10 spots better than we were last year, so I can’t let anything else tear me away from the momentum we’ve been having. So, I’m not going to let anything else take that away from us. So yeah, as tough as it may be, it’s quite easy for me to climb in and get away from all the chaos.”
YOU MENTIONED THE OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT FROM FANS. WHAT ABOUT YOUR COLLEAGUES? ARE THERE ANY WORDS THAT YOU DIDN’T EXPECT FROM MAYBE ANOTHER DRIVER THAT HAVE STUCK WITH YOU AND WILL STICK WITH YOU?
“No, it was good to see everybody out there and I appreciate the support. Two people that stuck out were Aric Almirola sent a nice text right before all that on Monday saying how we’re not friends and we don’t act like we are, but we’re going to stand next to each other and he’s proud to stand next to me as a brother and being human beings because he and I don’t click at all very well. We’ll both tell you that; and Alex Bowman coming up and saying we don’t see eye to eye on everything, but he stands by me 100 percent, something along those lines. I thought that was pretty cool. I’ve always had respect for Alex but we’ve definitely butted heads and have lost respect at times for each other, but it shows that we can all come together. Jimmie Johnson has been the guy at the top of the list the whole time. He texted me Tuesday after all the chaos going on to just check on me. So, it’s been good to have him in my corner there, for sure.”
YOU DON’T SEEM LIKE A REAL EMOTIONAL GUY. DO YOU GET EMOTIONAL WHEN SOME OF THESE GUYS DO HAVE YOUR BACK AND SEEING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK?
“I don’t even think the videos and pictures can answer that for you. Yeah, when you go through a lot and whatnot, I mask a lot of things. I hold a lot of things in and it comes out at times like that. So, yeah.”
YOU SAY IT’S JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE LIFE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME YOU’VE NEVER BEEN THROUGH ANYTHING LIKE YOU WERE THIS WEEK WHERE YOU’RE IN THIS FIRESTORM OF THE MEANS COMING FROM PEOPLE ALL OVER THE PLACE AND JUST THE ACCUSATIONS OF HOAX AND ALL THIS STUFF, AND YOU’RE OUT THERE TRYING TO TELL YOUR STORY AND IT SEEMS LIKE NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY THERE’S GOING TO BE THIS GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST GOING TO KEEP ILING ON. HOW DO YOU GET THROUGH THAT? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT?
“You stay off social media as much as you can. Corey LaJoie texted me yesterday and asked if I was all good. I said every time you stand behind the truth, you’re always good. I know people are going to try to knock me and bump me off the throne, the pedestal I’m on, the same pedestal that I’ve been on for 16 or 17 years now since I started. So, I’m fine with it. It’s fine. I love to get out and compete and have really good runs. It’s just motivation to go out and to have really good races. We’ll never shut them up. They’re afraid of themselves. They’re afraid of change. Sometimes those are the people that you can’t help throughout all the chaos in the world. Those are the ones who need the most help. But, you quickly realize they don’t give a damn about you and I don’t give a damn. About them.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO POCONO, THEY APPLIED PJ1 TO THE TRACK LAST YEAR AND A LOT OF DRIVERS DIDN’T USE IT. DO YOU THINK MORE DRIVERS WILL VENTURE UP THERE AND TRY TO USE IT DURING THE TWO RACES THIS WEEKEND?
“Yeah, I forgot about that. It was there last year. I think it was kind of far off in the areas where it was applicated. It was pretty far off. I think that’s why we didn’t use it. When I get to the track tomorrow, I’ll re-watch the race and get a for-sure idea. We’ll see when we get there.”
YOU SAID EARLIER THE TEAM HAS HAD SOME CONSISTENT TOP 15 FINISHES THIS YEAR. WHAT HAS BEEN THE MAIN CATALIST FOR THE SUDDEN UPTICK IN PERFORMANCE?
“It’s just the resources have been good, and they’ve been coming in steadily and helping us out. The alliance with RCR has been good; and Chevrolet, a new body this year has been good. There are a lot of different factors that go into it. Jerry Baxter (crew chief) has been doing a hell of a job being a leader of our team and calling great races and taking chances; staying out when others pit to capitalize on some really late finishes, good finishes there; so, there’s a lot of key factors. Just everybody in a collaborate group that helps support our program together.”
THE LAST TIME WE’VE HAD SOMEBODY WHO HAS THIS MUCH PRESSURE ON HIM WAS DALE JUNIOR AFTER 2001. ON THAT NOTE, HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM ABOUT WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE THE WEIGHT OF THE SPORT ON YOUR SHOULDERS?
“No, I haven’t talked to him about that. I guess I don’t see it as the weight of the sport on my shoulders. I guess I haven’t had time to think about it, honestly. I’ve been so damn busy, sitting right here in this setting (on a Zoom call) to think about that and to reach out to feel that. I haven’t felt the pressure yet. I don’t know if that’s just me masking it, but I haven’t talked to him.”
I SAW YOUR DAD ON CBS, THE MORNING SHOW, AND GIVEN THE FACT THAT HE IS WHITE, I ASSUME AT SOME POINT DURING YOUR LIVE YOU WERE GIVEN THE TALK, I’M WONDERING WHO THAT CAME FROM ON YOUR SIDE OF THE FAMILY
“The talk. What are you getting at?”
JUST AS FAR AS THE TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE TALK, I GUESS IS WHAT I’VE ALWAYS HEARD IT REFERRED TO
“The talk. You’ve got the birds and the bees talk. You’ve got whatever talk you’re talking about. I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about. Don’t be afraid to say it.”
WELL, I’M SAYING FROM THE STANDPOINT OF A LOT OF YOUNG AFRICAN MEN AND WOMEN WHEN THEY LEAVE THE HOUSE, THERE ARE OUTSIDE FACTORS THAT AFFECT THEM THAT I WOULD ABSOLUTELY HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT
“You could have been talking about having sex for the first time. I didn’t know what you were talking about. Yeah, no, we never had that conversation just because we’ve always went at it as treat equal with respect with respect and fairness and that’s how it always was in our family. I had the best of both worlds. I had my dad’s side and my mom’s side. And so, when I was outside, I didn’t worry about being treated differently than others. I just lived life to the fullest. I lived life how I wanted to live life and I went through those things on my own, discrimination, and stuff. And, it’s part of it. You learn from it.”
PART OF YOUR MESSAGE HAS ALWAYS BEEN GROWING THE SPORT AND YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT INCLUSION. YESTERDAY, BRAD DAUGHERTY TALKED ABOUT WHAT TYPE OF INCLUSION HE FELT GROWING UP AS A RACE FAN AND GETTING INTO THE SPORT AS A RACE OWNER. WHAT LEVEL OF INCLUSION DID YOU FEEL AS A FAN GROWING UP AND THEN BECOMING A DRIVER?
“Growing up, I didn’t even watch NASCAR. Even when I was racing, I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was on, but I was outside playing with friends and doing whatever. At the race tract, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t wanted there unless we were winning each and every week and we started doing that once we got better and better. But, as far as inclusion, I was too young to understand if we went through anything that would shy us away. And by the time I got to NASCAR, I was a driver. So, it was the next race on the schedule, we would be with the NASCAR teams. So, I always felt welcome.”
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS NASCAR CAN TAKE TO ENSURE INCLUSION FOR THE LONG-TERM INSTEAD OF THIS BEING A SHORT-TERM TREND?
“I think we just have to get out in our communities and we’ve created a group of us to be leadership at NASCAR as some key drivers to be a part of how we can put action to our words that we’ve been speaking and spreading the gospel, but it’s tough right now with everything that’s going on with COVID and it sounds like lockdowns are coming back into place. So, seeing people face-to-face and talking to them and telling them about NASCAR and educating them on NASCAR and how we’re making changes and how we want people to come out. It’s tough. So, it goes back to our great partner at World Wide Technology of being able to set up something and using technology to talk to people virtually, like we are now, to get out there and help those efforts until we can get back to a normal place to where we can in the communities and be able to raise more awareness.”
DO YOU AGREE WITH THE FBI SAYING THERE WAS NO HATE CRIME? AND NOW THAT NASCAR HAS RELEASED THE PHOTO, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT PICTURE?
“Whether it was tied sometime throughout 2019, the fall race there, someone did it with whatever intent they had. We weren’t in that garage stall at that time, so we can’t say it was directed toward me, which is good. It wasn’t directed toward me or my family. But somebody still knows how to tie a noose and whether they did it as a bad joke or not, who knows? But it was good for the public to see. It still won’t change some people’s mind of it being a hoax, but it is what it is.”
STEVE PHELPS SAID HE WISHED HE WOULD HAVE HANDLED THIS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY WITH LESS EMOTION AND MAYBE REFERRED TO IT AS AN ‘ALLEGED’ NOOSE OR AN ‘ALLEGED’ HEINOUS ACT. HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM ABOUT THAT AND HOW THINGS MIGHT DONE MOVING FORWARD WITH THIS SORT OF THING? HE SAID HE WOULD HAVE DONE IT WITH LESS EMOTION.
“Yeah, we’re in a crucial time in the world right now. And, we see what’s going on outside of the sport. And the way we reacted to it and the way it was brought to my attention, I thought it was done in the right way. Worded it differently, sure. You can’t let that slip-up and be just like oh, it might be a mistake. I encouraged him to do the same thing over and over again. I tried to do my research behind the scenes with my guys to make sure it wasn’t a garage pull. You’ve seen the numbers and how many garage stalls they inspected. Eleven had knots and only one had a noose.”
BEFORE THE TALLADEGA RACE, I’M SURE YOU SAW THE VIDEO OF THE CONFEDERATE FLAGS OUTSIDE THE TRACK AND THE ONE FLYING OVER THE TRACK THAT SAID, ‘DEFUND NASCAR’. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP THIS FROM CONTINUING TO HAPPEN?
“It’s the right for peaceful protests. It’s part of it. But you won’t see them inside of the race tracks where we’re having a good time with the new fans that have purchased their tickets and purchased their favorite driver’s apparel. You won’t see it flying in there. Outside, they’re just going to be making a lot of noise. It’s part of it. It’s exactly what you see on the flip side of everything going on in cities as they peacefully protest. But we won’t see cops pepper-spraying them and shooting them with rubber bullets, will you.
WITH BEING OUTSPOKEN, AND YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT THE PUSHBACK FROM OTHERS. FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW IN SPEAKING UP AND BECOMING A LEADER, FOR THOSE FOLLOW YOU AND MAY WANT TO BE AS STRONG AS YOU AND SPEAK UP, BUT ARE AFRAID OF THE PUSH-BACK AND ALL THE THINGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA, OF A RACE TRACK OWNER IN NORTH CAROLINA SAYING HE’S SELLING ‘BUBBA ROPE’ THIS WEEK, AND THINGS LIKE THAT. HOW DO YOU ADVISE SOMEBODY? YOU HAVE TO BE STRONG TO HELP OTHERS TO BE AT A LEVEL LIKE YOU AND BE OUTSPOKEN AND PUT THOSE THINGS ASIDE IF THAT’S EVEN POSSIBLE?
“Yeah, you’ve just got to be immensely strong. Where I’ve gotten my strength from, I couldn’t tell you. I do read into it and I do get pissed off and part of my emotions are hey, it’s one, being worn out, and two, being frustrated. Three is just finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But, I’m probably a fool for thinking that because it’s 2020 and something else would happen, probably tomorrow, and I’ll be right back where we are. So, yeah, you’re put on a pedestal. Athletes are put on a pedestal and there’s not a manual or a guidebook to tell you how to handle yourself off the race track or off the fields. But it’s all something you learn and you go through the trials and tribulations to grow from those incidents. And, I think that’s what makes you tougher throughout. The people that are sitting on the couch that have never done anything to their lives to be able to amount to something. And they’re jealous of your lifestyle. They’re just trying to throw hate and spew hate. And that’s unfortunate. But you just have to think like, you’re living in your own life. You don’t have time to worry about other people’s lives. So, you shouldn’t let them dictate how you live your life. Live life to the fullest.”
HOW MUCH OF AN INFLUENCE CAN YOU BE AND HOW IMPORTANT OF A ROLE CAN YOU PLAY TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE MAYBE A LITTLE BIT FEARFUL OF STANDING UP?
“I don’t need to go out of my way. I’ve never gone out of my way to do anything. This is, I’ve been right here this whole time talking about what’s going on in the world and it’s just easier for me to talk on it because I can relate to it. When we struggle with things we can’t relate to, that doesn’t affect you directly or indirectly, then you don’t want to touch it. We’re in a sport where money drives our careers. Sponsors. They don’t want you to touch it. And I say this with the utmost respect, but ever since I’ve been speaking out I haven’t been thinking about my sponsors. I’ve been thinking me being a human being and standing up for what’s right. And I hope that sponsors would see that and back me up on that. And, we’ve had some sponsor drama this year that I’m quite frankly glad I’m not a part of anymore because they wouldn’t stand-up for what’s going on right now. So, you just speak what’s on your mind and do your research and educate yourself and move on from there.”
YOU SAID YOU ARE WORN OUT AND A LITTLE BIT FRUSTRATED. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE US (THE MEDIA) TO START FOCUSING ON NOW IN ORDER FOR YOU TO BE ABLE TO PUT THIS BEHIND YOU AND START RACING AGAIN?
“It don’t matter. Just focus on racing. Damn, it’s as easy as that. Let’s focus on how we can continue to push the message of compassion and understanding and let’s help fight the good fight in what’s going on in the world today. And let’s get new fans out to the race track and encourage our fanbase now to welcome them with open arms and show them a good time. I think that’s one important piece that we can focus on right now. Let’s get away from what happened at Talladega. Let’s move on from that and put it to bed. Let me go out and have some good races, have some bad races, and try to figure out what the hell we’re going to do to rebound from bad races and get back into race car life. As much as it’s tough for me to balance both the human being side and the racing side, it’s part of it and I accepted that. But, yeah, we’ll just continue to move on and push the narrative on, let’s go back a couple of weeks ago, on how we can implement our ways to help bring new faces in and help bring more diversity inclusion and make everybody feel welcome. And, yeah, that’s about it.”
— Team Chevy —