NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace has had a remarkable few months. Since the death of George Floyd, the lone Black NASCAR Cup Series driver has been the unofficial spokesman for the racing series regularly doing interviews and answering questions on the issues of racial inequality and police brutality.
Wallace’s words have had power as he suggested NASCAR remove the Confederate flag from all events going forward, and two days later, the organization announced it had done just that. With his higher profile and skyrocketing popularity, Wallace, who is a free agent after the 2020 season, finds himself in a position of power as he heads to the bargaining table to decide where he will race in 2021. His current team, Richard Petty Motorsports, just made his decision a whole lot more interesting with the offer of partial ownership of the team.
Bubba Wallace’s popularity has skyrocketed in 2020
To suggest NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace has become popular in the last few months is an understatement. In his third full season with the Cup Series, Wallace has made the rounds with various media outlets, and it hasn’t just been limited to sports. He’s appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, and The Jimmy Kimmel Show.
In addition to his position on the removal of Confederate flags at all NASCAR-related events, Wallace has shared his own personal experiences with racism, as well as the heartbreaking experience of his cousin’s death at the hands of police.
Bubba Wallace has used his higher profile to discuss racism on a broader scale with his national interviews, as well as with those in the NASCAR family. He’s had numerous conversations with fellow drivers on his experiences being a Black man and specifically how it relates to NASCAR. The drivers have responded and supported Wallace in a variety of ways, including on Twitter, where they defended him against an attack from the President.
Years from now, Wallace will be able to reflect back and see how 2020 was a transformational year for him personally, and as a member of the NASCAR family.
Bubba Wallace having best Cup Series season
While Bubba Wallace has received a lot of publicity off the track as NASCAR’s unofficial spokesperson on racial issues, the 26-year-old has stepped up his game on the track and is having his best season on the Cup Series.
He started off the season strong with a 15th place finish at Daytona, then followed it up a week later with 6th place in Las Vegas, his first top 10 of the year. Since that time, Wallace has added a pair of top-10 finishes at Bristol and Indianapolis, where he finished 10th and 9th, respectively. His three top 10s for the 2020 season have already surpassed his career-best total for a season of two, which he set in 2017.
For the season, Bubba Wallace has finished in the top 20 eleven times, which is also better than his best season in 2017. Wallace’s talent is undeniable, or he wouldn’t have made it to the Cup Series in the first place. It appears this season, even with all the off-track distractions, Wallace and his team at Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) have managed to get things moving in the right direction, which could bode well for 2021.
RPM offers Wallace ownership stake
Like other sports, free agency in NASCAR allows drivers to complete their existing contract with a certain team and then explore possible opportunities that might be available elsewhere with other teams. The season before a driver becomes a free agent is crucial because the race results determine the value of a driver and how much other teams might be willing to spend to lure that driver into their garage.
In Bubba Wallace’s case, he’s got a resume that includes improved race results for 2020, as well as a much higher profile, which is also an appealing factor. The RPM ownership group has watched Wallace’s star rise in the last few months and has made it abundantly clear they want to keep their driver. In fact, they are so intent on keeping Wallace, they’ve even offered him an ownership stake in the team according to NBC NASCAR reporter Marty Snider.
“They did offer me part ownership of the race team to re-sign there. I have a lot of options on the table, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet,” Wallace told Snider. The driver said he’s in no rush to make his decision because he’s traditionally signed his deals closer to the start of the season.
“With so many options on the table, I owe it to myself to check everything out and listen to all the offers that are on the table… No matter what, my deals usually come together in January. It’s going to be the earliest in my career that I’m going to know where I’m driving in 2021.”
While Bubba Wallace’s team for 2021 is still up in the air, it’s clear that wherever he lands the team will have a driver with an incredibly bright future on and off the track.