Wallace set to break new ground with Petty
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Getting behind the wheel of the most iconic car in NASCAR history might be enough to unnerve even the most confident of race car drivers.
But Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the first African-American full-time driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series since Wendell Scott in 1971 and the first black driver in the Daytona 500 since
1969, has no fear of driving the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. That would be the same car that the legend drove to seven victories in the Daytona 500.
Perhaps it’s because The King himself imparted his wisdom to the brash
24-year-old driver from Mobile, Ala. “Richard Petty told me before climbing in, ‘No need to be a hero. No need to overstep anything that you’re doing,’ ” Wallace said. “I’m here for a reason and here because I proved my point, so just go out there and do what you do.’ ”
Despite the extraordinary publicity he has received, including being the star of a docuseries that NASCAR is chron- icling called Behind the Wall: Bubba
Wallace, which will air this week and next on Facebook Watch, he’ll feel no added pressure when the green flag comes down to start the “The Great American Race” on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
The documentary, he says, has been stressful, “for sure, with cameras following you all the time, capturing everything, the only time they haven’t followed me is when I go to the bathroom and go to sleep. Everything in between, they’re there. But it will be a fun series to watch, that’s for sure.”
Yet in the next breath, Wallace says, “But I’m not here to be a TV star. I’m here to race cars.”
In fact, with the stress of looking for a full-time gig behind him, Wallace couldn’t be more excited and at ease.
“It’s definitely a stress reliever to know I have a permanent home for this year, so I couldn’t be more thankful to Richard Petty, The King, for allowing me to step behind the wheel of No. 43 and pilot it all year and to showcase it,” Wallace said Wednesday during media day at the track. “To be here now and say I’ll be running full time as a rookie in my first Cup season, It’s pretty damn cool.”
Wallace doesn’t even mind being reminded that he is a black man in a white sport. Does he ever feel the sting of that, he was asked?
“No, I never have. I’m just a race car driver,” he said, then added with a laugh, “I’ll whoop their (butt) any day.”
But he’s not lost on the meaning of driving in NASCAR’s most famous race during Black History Month.
“Absolutely, I’m looking forward to representing the black culture,” he said, “so, yeah, it’s really good.”
Bubba Wallace is set to be the first black driver in the Daytona 500 since 1969.