Monday, December 08, 2014

Wallace’s Situation Is About Racing, Not Race

It’s time for Darrell Wallace, Jr. to stop being black.

Don’t misunderstand, the five-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner is justifiably proud of both his African American roots and his on-track accomplishments. In October of 2013, Wallace became the first African American driver to win a NASCAR National Series race since soon-to-be inducted Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in 1964.

That was a big deal at the time, and the national headlines it garnered were repeated four more times last season, as Wallace steered his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to a quartet of victories at Gateway, Eldora, Martinsville and Homestead Miami Speedways, finishing third in the season-long championship standings.

Now, Wallace is inexplicably without a ride, after Joe Gibbs Racing was unable to find a sponsor to back him in a full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule in 2015. The Alabama native had expressed optimism that JGR would be able to assemble an XFINITY program for him next season, but with no sponsorship dollars on the horizon, Wallace asked for – and has reportedly been granted – a release from his contract, in order to pursue other opportunities in the sport.

When word of Wallace’s situation became public recently, many of the resulting headlines had more to do with race than racing. That is unfortunate, since Wallace’s preference has always been to understate the role of race in his driving career.

Yes, he is a product of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program, which provides opportunities for talent young minority and female drivers to climb the NASCAR ladder. But Wallace’s NASCAR success to date has everything to do with his talent behind the wheel of a race car, and nothing to do with the color of his skin.

In other realms of motorsport, minority and female competitors ceased to be noteworthy decades ago.

Shirley Muldowney obtained her NHRA professional driving license way back in 1965, and was winning Top Fuel World Championships a decade later. Erica Enders-Stevens recently clinched the NHRA Pro Stock championship, while Alexis DeJoria and Courtney Force are frequent winners in the nitro Funny Car class. Brittany Force wheels a fire-breathing Top Fuel dragster, Angie Smith is a top contender in Pro Stock Motorcycle and former multi-time World Champion Angelle Sampey recently returned to drag racing after a six-year hiatus. 

Nobody makes a big to-do when a woman wins a drag race anymore. And they shouldn’t. It’s old news.

Nobody notices when two-time World Driving Champion Lewis Hamilton wins Formula One races, one after another. Antron Brown’s 2012 NHRA Top Fuel title was noteworthy for many reasons, none of them being the color of his skin.  

Hamilton and Brown long ago succeeded in shedding the “black” descriptor, in favor of simply being racers. NASCAR – and its fans -- must allow Darrell Wallace to do the same. It’s time to erase the racial asterisk and allow Wallace to be more than just “the first black NASCAR winner since Wendell Scott.”

Bubba Wallace is the stereotype for what team owners look for in a driver. He is supremely talented behind the wheel, handsome, personable, glib and fully at-ease with fans and supporters from the board room to the bonfire. Published reports say he could be headed for Roush Fenway Racing next season, joining Elliott Sadler, Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed in the team’s XFINITY Series Ford Mustangs.

He deserves that kind of opportunity. Not because he’s black, but because he’s good.


  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    No, it's not about racing or race. It's about sponsorship, and the trend toward renting out cars to "funded drivers." Suarez is funded; Bubba isn't. Simple as that. Being good isn't enough, or frankly, even relevant these days. You have to bring sponsorship, and teams will provide a car and team. That's how it works.

    1. Anonymous6:11 AM

      NA$CAR themselves have funded all of Bubba's Truck's ALL about race. NA$CAR needs him to succeed to break a barrier in the series,

  2. It's interesting that the media continues to call Darrell "African American" when in fact he's biracial! Poor journalism!

    1. Well Gerry, since Bubba calls himself African American, it's good enough for me.

  3. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Good read Dave, as usual. Just one thing that I believe needs to be mentioned, you left out the media, of which you are a part of, need to look at Bubba as a racer and a racer only. When he won his first truck series race at Matrinsville in 2013 the first thing the media did was mention his color multiple, multiple times NOT that he had just won his very first national Nascar race and all the hard work and dedication he put into it but rather they spent their time talking about his color, which to me, took away from his well deserved win. There is no doubt Bubba is very talented and has put in the effort necessary to move to the next level, I surely hope he gets it I just wish the media would treat him like any other racer and then maybe his skin color wouldn't be the focus when he rolls into victory lane the next time.

  4. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Bubba needs to get out like Anonymous pointed out and persuade a sponsor to support him. Carl Edwards did it as well. Nothing lands in your lap in NASCAR. Bubba needs to discover a product the would fit his personality.

  5. Tryingtobeafan2:24 PM

    dont you think its about Sponsorship and he's Black? Sponsors want to Market to Nascar fans and for the most part they are mostly or a great deal White- I took a Billionaire Mexican and his money to get behind Suarez - I bet the real money of the Deal went behind White Carl Edwards.....

  6. Anonymous2:26 PM

    Saurez is a bought ride which is sad wallace much better racer

  7. I think this more about a couple other factors than skin clor/race.

    Sponsorship dollars are still difficult to find for many teams in NASCAR, at all levels.
    Also, Gibbs had Wallace "secured" making it difficult for other teams to go after him and put him in a seat.
    Lastly, Wallace developed at the wrong time for JGR. If he would have been a year or 2 slower in coming into his success, Gibbs would have been more able to handle the rising star.

    I can't agree with Moody this time (which is very rare).

  8. Anonymous4:21 PM

    I think this is a story about failure. Failure of NASCAR and JGR. Wallace is the dream the Drive for Diversity program sought to fulfill. He's more than they could ask for, yet there's no money? If he goes without a full-time ride, it is a judgment on NASCAR not being able to finish the job they started with Drive for Diversity. Any failure to secure a ride will be a judgment on the program.

    If he goes to Roush, I just can't see the end game. Too many drivers already, most of which are in cars that aren't up to their potential and are running part time. Wallace wants to race a full-schedule, and I hope that's what he gets.

    1. NASCAR does not (and cannot) sponsor individual drivers. That would be a blatant conflict of interest, much like a baseball umpire playing salaries for one team and not the other.

    2. Anonymous4:53 PM

      True, but there is one thing NASCAR could do: stop eating up all the prime sponsorships for itself. Didn't they used to have a guy who had the job of trying to connect potential sponsors with teams, to keep the sport healthy?

    3. Michael in SoCal10:38 AM

      I agree with Anon here, Nascar should stop having 'Official' sponsors of everything. Funnel those sponsorship dollars to the teams and the drivers.

  9. Anonymous9:08 PM

    Well said Dave…on every point!

    The United States and NASCAR have come a long way over the past 50 something years. I hope one day we can include everyone in a conversation without having to talk about their skin color or nationality…just their abilities.

    I do not believe that his skin tone had much to do about his lack of sponsorship. I do believe a struggling economy and the high cost of racing may be more at fault. Jack Roush has been one of the best at putting together multiple sponsors over the course of a season, and I’m hoping that this is the case for Bubba.

  10. Anonymous11:19 AM

    Fact - Many drivers more talented than Wallace will never get to drive in a major touring series. Fact - Many drivers just as successful as Wallace have had trouble getting/ maintaining rides and sponsorship. Fact - My family and friends would laugh at me if I called myself Scottish just because I had Scottish ancestry. By Mr. Moody's standards he should all me Scottish too - and like it. Fact - Wallace has benefited greatly from being African American. If he was white he may not even have a ride in a touring series.