Bubba Wallace makes his NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series debut this Sunday. It’s a big deal, I’ll grant you that. Yours truly submits it’s not for the reason many in the media think.
The Alabaman isn’t hopping into just any old ride. In his first Cup race, Bubba Wallace hops into the 43 car, once piloted by “The King,” Richard Petty. Though his presence is more as an ambassador, one of NASCAR’s most dominant drivers ever still has his fingerprints all over this team. It would be like getting drafted by the 49ers and being assigned Joe Montana’s jersey number, with a possibility the two of you would meet. How cool is that?
Wallace has earned his opportunity. He won five races in the truck series, and has performed pretty well in the Xfinity. As the big names of the recent past hang up their helmets, it’s good to see young talent arriving on the scene and testing their chops. Before we address the elephant in the parlor, make no mistake: Bubba Wallace has earned his opportunity. In addition to his CWTS series wins, Darrell Wallace Jr. has also won six races in 36 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and also won his only race in the NASCAR Super Late Model Tour Series.
Unfortunately, not enough focus has been placed on his accomplishments, but on his skin color. Wallace is the son of a white father and an African-American mother. It is the first time the top series has had a black driver in a race since Bill Lester back in 2006.
So what? If he’s good, fans will embrace, even if Bubba Wallace is indigo with white polka dots. If he isn’t, fans will give him a bad time. That’s what really matters. Let’s not forget that he’s part white too. Big deal! Now, more than ever, people in all walks of life have mixed ethnicities in their lineage.
Look- in today’s NASCAR, we have a Mexican driver, Daniel Suarez. Kyle Larson has a Japanese-American mother whose parents spent time in an internment camp.Coming up through the ranks is Rico Abreu, a man of Puerto Rican descent. Great! Without having to make a big deal of it, it is being shown that NASCAR is not the exclusive property of good ol’ boys.
The beauty of sports is that it’s a meritocracy. That’s a fancy way of saying that if you’re good, you’ll get your chance. None of the aforementioned will be around very long if they aren’t. They know that. They don’t have a problem with it.
While not a liberal, this observer is no bigot either. Eager to see the new blood succeed, I root for the likes of Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. To that end, the debut of Bubba Wallace is a good thing. Yes, there will be those who identify with him because of his ancestry. That’s fine. Let’s just not make that the whole story. Consider this a plea to do what the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, to measure a man by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. Or perhaps in this case, measure him by his talent, not by his blood. Besides, his blood is the same color as mine.