The Evolution of NASCAR's Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr.

The Evolution of NASCAR's Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr.

There hasn’t been an African American to drive in NASCAR’s highest series (Monster Energy Series), since Bill Lester drove the # 23 Waste Management (Bill Davis Racing), car back in 2006.

That will change on Sunday at the NASCAR race in Pocono, PA aka “The Tricky Triangle”.

Darrell Wallace Jr. affectionately known as “Bubba” will temporarily take the place of injured driver Aric Amirola  (for the next few months), in the Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM), # 43 car.

Yeah THAT Richard “The King” Petty and THAT # 43 car.

Is there any better way to make your top series debut regardless of your background?

Bubba has worked his butt off to this moment and I’ve followed him most of the way and I’m beside myself for this opportunity for him.

Anytime you watch a driver develop through the steps of progression you feel invested and feel proud as they evolve.

For me its ten times that since Bubba and I are African American and his climb up the stock car ladder has been historic but not smooth and not without hiccups, bumps and bruises.

Just like a stock car race.

In 2010, Bubba was part of the “Drive for Diversity” program to get more minorities into racing and he was the K & N rookie of the year for that level of racing.

He then was promoted into the Truck series (the third tier of NASCAR), and was with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), which does a phenomenal job of recruiting, developing and promoting young NASCAR talent.

Current Monster series driver Erik Jones was a fellow KBM driver with Bubba in his time there, they dominated the series in their brief stint together down there.

But it was in October of 2013 at the truck series race in Martinsville VA when Bubba first drove into history, he won the race there. The first African American to win a NASCAR race in 50 years since the late Wendell Scott.

Ironically Martinsville, VA was Wendell’s backyard and the moment wasn’t lost on Bubba.

I was in Indianapolis that weekend and read about it on my phone in my hotel room and had to sit back on the couch and just take it in how special that win was and that Bubba was just getting started.

He won four more races during his truck racing days including the prestigious Mudsummer Nights Classic in Eldora Ohio at Tony Stewart’s difficult dirt oval track.

In the fall of 2014 I got to see Bubba race here at Chicagoland Speedway, I was in the pits during his introduction and got to see him up close and get prepared for a race and he is diligent and serious about his racing. I couldn’t have felt more proud.

For his work Bubba was promoted to middle NASCAR series (The Xfinity series), first with Joe Gibbs Racing (yes the hall of fame football coach), but they had issues getting him full time sponsorship (which is hard for any racer regardless of color), and then onto Roush Fenway Racing.

Though he has been competitive in the Xfinity series he has not won a race, he has two poles, six top-five and 34 top-10 finishes in 83 career starts and he has been near the front in most races but can’t get the checkered flag.

But Bubba races “the right way”, he’s not dirty, he’s strategic and has shown great maturity in these last few years.

As a fan it’s frustrating (not to see him win on this level), but this is about development, some drivers move up and improve quicker than others and top level opportunities don’t come along every day.

Former fellow Xfinity drivers Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez passed him up on their way to full time Monster Energy Series rides.

But Bubba pushed on and now has a historic chance in the winningest car in NASCAR history (200 wins in the # 43 driven by The King), supported by Aric’s great crew and the The King is involved in RPM’s race operations.

For me as an African American fan its unbelievable, the first driver and car I ever rooted for was the # 43 of Richard Petty and now the first African American in over a decade will strap in and drive once again looking to make history.

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