Wal­lace sets sights on blaz­ing more trails

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JENNA FRYER

Bubba Wal­lace does not care about the way things used to be done in NASCAR, and he is not in­ter­ested in how vet­er­ans be­lieve he is sup­posed to drive.

The rookie be­hind the wheel of Richard Petty’s iconic No. 43 al­ready has de­fied odds by be­com­ing the only black driver at NASCAR’s top level. Reach­ing the pin­na­cle of the sport is just the start of what Wal­lace hopes to ac­com­plish.

“I’m dif­fer­ent, I’m not like any­body in this sport, and that’s not based on skin color,” Wal­lace said. “I have a I-don’t-give- a-damn fil­ter, and there are a lot of guys still stuck to an old sys­tem that’s been the same thing for them the last 20 years. Well, that’s bor­ing. That’s su­per bor­ing.

“I do my own thing and think, ‘Why are we do­ing it this old way still?' Throw the old sys­tem out the win­dow. Peo­ple are afraid of change, but I want to change ev­ery­thing.”

Wal­lace has two races re­main­ing in a rookie sea­son with a sto­ry­book be­gin­ning at the Day­tona 500. He fin­ished sec­ond, the high­est ever for a mi­nor­ity in NASCAR’s ver­sion of the Su­per Bowl, and it launched Wal­lace into the na­tional spot­light.

But Day­tona is un­like the bulk of NASCAR’s sched­ule so when that high sub­sided, Wal­lace found him­self try­ing to keep his head above wa­ter. His Richard Petty Mo­tor­sports team switched from Ford to Chevrolet dur­ing the off­sea­son, aligned with a new team part­ner and hired a new driver in Wal­lace. The seat was open be­cause Aric Almirola moved to Ste­wartHaas Rac­ing, and pri­mary spon­sor Smith­field left with him.

A mid-level team un­der­go­ing so much change could not avoid strug­gling and it’s been that way all year for RPM and its ea­ger young driver. The loss of fund­ing has made it feel as if the team is some­times run­ning

PAUL SANCYA AP

Bubba Wal­lace rec­og­nizes that his race will al­ways be as im­por­tant to some as what he does on the track. “I’m here to win races and be me,” he says. “If some­one doesn’t like me, that’s not my prob­lem.”

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