NASCAR icon, Bubba Wallace thanks racing legend, Jimmie Johnson, for offering support over the last year.
During an interview with Justin Sylvester of E!’s Just the Sip podcast, Wallace opens up about being the only black driver in NASCAR’s top tier. He also discusses his call to ban the confederate flag from NASCAR last year and the backlash he’s received since. As widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice became lead headlines in 2020, Wallace called on the stock car racing company to ban the Confederate flag from official events because of its ties to the South’s history of slavery and segregation.
“To one side, it was heritage. To another side it was hate,” said Wallace. “But there was so much more hate with that than there is heritage.”
Wallace said that he was tired of hearing fans say “Hey, I will never go to a NASCAR race because of the flag,” or “I’ve been before and the flag was there so I’ll never go back.” The racing great knew he could help diversify the sport’s demographic and he wanted to help do so.
“I was like, you know what? We could get this out of here,” Bubba said. “I mean, if this is holding back a huge race that we are trying to attract. A huge demographic that we’re trying to branch our [audience to], let’s just get rid of it. And it was as simple as that,” said Wallace.
Bubba Wallace Thanks Jimmie Johnson For Being A ‘Class Act From Head To Toe’
Days after Wallace publicly encouraged NASCAR to get rid of Confederate flags, the organization responded that they were officially banning the flags from its racetracks in an effort to create a more inclusive environment.
Although many fans and athletes supported Wallace, he also received immediate backlash. One of the most horrific counters came when someone put a noose in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Fortunately, Wallace had the support of family and friends including fellow NASCAR legend, Jimmie Johnson.
“Jimmy is just a class act from head to toe, in and out of the race car. Just an incredible brother to have in your corner. He was the one who was calling me every day through the thick of it…I thought that was really special,” says Wallace. “He was educating himself. The biggest thing he said was ‘I can’t relate and I apologize. I’m just trying to be a better father to my girls.’ I thought that was super cool and I will always be grateful for the moments we shared,” says Wallace.
Moving forward, Wallace wants to acknowledge the diverse group of people involved with NASCAR.
“There are a lot of people that are part of the sport that are of color. You just don’t see that. We need to do a better job of recognizing them so that people will know. Because a lot of people think it’s just me, but that’s not the case.”