NASCAR Driver Bubba Wallace Wishes You A Happy New Year After What Was A Tumultuous 2020
Happy New Year! I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot over the past few days. It’s a wonderful greeting to start off another year. And in particular, this year especially. 2020 was difficult, trying, and filled with adversity. Yet, there were so many stories of overcoming that adversity, including in the sport of NASCAR.
“Happy New Year!” Bubba Wallace, a NASCAR driver, said in a Tweet. “New chapter begins for all of us, it’s up to you to capitalize and seize the opportunity! Let’s go to work.”
It’s a new chapter in NASCAR as the sport was filled with conversations regarding social injustices happening in our country. One of those incidents included the terrifying “noose” found in Wallace’s NASCAR garage earlier in the summer 2020, with a FBI investigation eventually concluding it wasn’t a “hate crime”. Yet, that incident alone sparked something powerful.
Just take a look at this:
If you hadn’t seen that before, I’m glad you’ve stopped to read this. What a wonderful moment in sports in 2020. Drivers, pit crews, walking together to stand for something. In this case, to stand for their NASCAR friend, Bubba Wallace, after the traumatic experience he had gone through. Drivers and their crews rallied behind Wallace in what was an emotional time period for him.
In an extensive ESPN piece by Ryan McGee detailing the year for Wallace and how he got to this point, Wallace shared a moment in 2020 that changed him: As ESPN states “It was when the months-old video of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery being run down and shot dead as he jogged through a neighborhood was released to the public. The incident had taken place Feb. 23, just days after Wallace had finished 15th in the Daytona 500, a mere 150 miles south of where Arbery died in Brunswick, Georgia.”
“You heard the gunshots, and I was just like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, what? Rewind, rewind it.’ And watch it again and just see him just kind of flop over. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t sleep,” Wallace said for SportsCenter Presents 2020: Heroes, History and Hope per ESPN. “Just how, OK [these guys are saying], we can just go hunt you down and get away with it. And be fine. Kill you in broad daylight, just because we think that you’re up to no good. We think that you’re a suspect, into robbing unfinished houses or vandalizing, whatever it was, and we’re gonna go kill you. That ain’t right.”
It’s evident that Wallace has embraced the position he’s in, being a minority in this sport, as is evident in his pinned tweet (a tweet that he posted in the fall of 2017):
Wallace has embraced being “the black driver” and wants to enjoy the journey.
ESPN notes that Wallace is “the first full-time racer of color in NASCAR’s Cup Series since 1973”. ESPN’s McGee went on to report that: “(Wallace) has known from the first lap he ran that speaking on behalf of Black motorsports fans and participants is part of the gig. Still, he never fully immersed himself in that responsibility because he was too busy trying to move up the stock car racing ladder.”
Darrell Wallace Sr., Bubba’s father, said per ESPN: “Now he understands, it’s time to stop putting up with this. It’s time to have a conversation, whether people want to have it or not.”
There’s been more learning and growing in the sport. From NASCAR driver Kyle Larson being disciplined by NASCAR for using the ‘N-word’ and him being very remorseful and apologizing, seeking to learn more from his mistake, to Wallace and Denny Hamlin being a part of a new Michael Jordan-owned racing team, many lessons can be learned from NASCAR’s 2020.
We can always learn from history. 2020 is now, well, history. And NASCAR played a small part in helping bring the conversation forth of social justice in a sport that seemed to not go there or touch on that subject. Now, it obviously, has and that’s a good sign for the sport. To be inclusive, to celebrate diversity, to be more than just drivers but dealing with what’s going on in society, as well.
So, the rearview mirror shows 2020. Now, let’s look ahead and take this embrace this next lap of life to the fullest.
As Wallace said: “New chapter begins for all of us, it’s up to you to capitalize and seize the opportunity! Let’s go to work.” It’s time to roll up the sleeves and get to work in 2021.
Charlie Lapastora is a sports/news multimedia journalist who’s reported, written, produced, anchored, shot video/edited on different NBC, ABC, and FOX shows in multiple TV markets, along with digital & new media companies. Charlie has traveled the country telling national sports, news, feature, and original stories on a cable news network, airing on top 10 TV markets, satellite radio, and digital platforms. He is passionate about his faith, family—being a husband to whom he calls the G.O.A.T. of women—about reppin’ his home state of Michigan and Detroit teams (yes, including the Lions), good coffee, and loves how sports brings people together. He’s traveled the world leading and coaching sports camps and has also worked at the Detroit Pistons and LA Clippers’ NBA teams.
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