Bubba Wallace is the new face of NASCAR, and the sport is totally behind him

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Even if you don't know NASCAR, you probably now know the name Bubba Wallace. He's the only Black driver in the sport's top series who the FBI determined was not the target of a hate crime after a noose was discovered in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday.

And if you've been following this storyline at all, then maybe you saw the moments. You know, those clips of the entire sport -- all the drivers, crew members and even 82-year-old NASCAR Hall of Fame member and team owner Richard Petty -- pushing Wallace's car to the front of the starting grid for Monday's race, and standing with the No. 43 driver for the national anthem in a show of solidarity against racism.

"That, to me, was the coolest story of it," driver Joey Logano said about the week.

He called Monday a "history-making day." Others in the sport said they felt the same.

"It was a significant moment for me and I've been in the sport for 30 years," NASCAR team owner and former NBA player Brad Daugherty said. "You always wonder who is on board -- in anything, any movement."

"And when you see a movement like this," continued Daugherty, who is Black, "and you're looking through that garage area and you're looking at the faces, and 99% of those faces are not the same as mine or Bubba's, you wonder who really has your back."


Daugherty's unspoken question was answered on Monday when the sport walked behind Wallace in a show of solidarity. It was an act that arose organically, initiated by seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who told other drivers in a group text that he wanted to stand next to Wallace for the anthem. Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick then suggested the pre-race march. Other drivers got on board, and so did all the teams.

"When I looked up and saw those guys pushing that race car out, I mean, it brought tears to my eyes," Daugherty said. "Because it made me realize that when I walk into that garage area, that's my home. I'm welcome there."

Even competitors who have had run-ins with Wallace on the track, such as Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola, were quick to show their support.

"Tempers are gonna flare if you run into the same guy a couple weeks in a row here and there," Bowman said. "It's not gonna go great for your relationship, but that's as a race-car driver and that's on the racetrack."


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