Reason Richard Petty hired Bubba Wallace, NASCAR's only black driver

Brendan Marks, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The questions come intermittently, sprinkled into a large group interview at Daytona International Speedway. But the central idea, like hot air and the truth, always rises.

So Bubba, what's it like being a black NASCAR driver?

And Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. (his sister gave him his nickname the day he was born) sits there and graciously addresses it, time after time. Even mainstream media outlets have come to speak to him, NASCAR's first full-time African-American driver since Wendell Scott in 1971. The Daytona 500 on Sunday will be his first race in that capacity.

Back to that question. Wallace, 24, meets it head on again, speaking clearly and brashly as is his personality, one of the most vibrant of all of NASCAR's young drivers. He's been doing so ever since it was announced late in 2017 that he would drive the No. 43 car made famous by seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty.

At the time, Wallace tweeted: "There is only 1 driver from an African American background at the top level of our sport ... I am the 1. You're not gonna stop hearing about 'the black driver' for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey."

As for why Wallace felt the need to say that?

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"It's because of you guys," Wallace told the media Wednesday. "You guys are going to keep putting the black driver out there, so I'm telling fans to embrace it because that's all they're going to keep hearing."

Wallace is not at all shy about his status as the only black driver in a predominantly white sport -- addressing the same group of reporters, he acknowledged all the "coverage that I'm getting right now and the entourage that I have following."

But while Wallace's race might be what so many in the media are focusing on, he said he'd rather be known for something else.

His job.


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