DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —
Wallace is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing and will drive the No. 54 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports on Friday. Gibbs knows as well as anyone what it’s like to work with black athletes under the microscope. He coached the Washington Redskins when Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 1988. Gibbs said Wallace has the talent and the mental toughness to break through in NASCAR.
“I think he’s the right kid,” Gibbs said.
Wallace, raised in Concord, N.C., has the full support of the black drivers before him. Lester has sent him encouraging tweets. Wallace met some of Scott’s children at a race in Virginia.
“They’re just happy to see someone following in their dad’s footsteps,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can carry that torch a little farther.”
He’s in a better position to succeed than many other minorities over the years. He has sponsorship, a top-flight team in JGR and is a graduate of NASCAR’s diversity program. Even in NASCAR, the climate has changed where drivers of all sexes and colors are openly accepted, in the garage, and hopefully in the stands.
Wallace, who goes by Bubba, spent the last three seasons driving in a low-level NASCAR developmental series and said racism in all forms was nonexistent.
At lower levels of racing, though, Wallace would hear racial insults or encounter ignorant views.
“We used to take it from fans,” his father, Darrell, said. “We’ve had it from other drivers. We’ve had it from officials. We’ve had it from promoters. We’ve had it from track owners. We’ve pretty much had it from everybody.”