Richard Petty: “We wanted to get in on the youth movement.”
Richard Petty gave great advice to his young driver ahead of the Daytona 500. He told him, ‘Don’t tear up the car.’
That very race turned into a bit of a demo derby with some stock car racing mixed on top. At the conclusion of stage 1 and stage 2, a new set of heavy hitters were knocked out of contention. Bubba Wallace survived to the end of the 500 mile race with a 2nd place running. He finished runner-up to the #3 driven by Austin Dillon.
His rise to success comes at a critical time for NASCAR as a whole. They are in a transitional period. A new format, new rules, new drivers and the retirement of the 15 time most popular driver. NASCAR fans need a new face, a new driver to pull for.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take until we get there, but it’s been a fun journey so far, and we’ve only just started the schedule. It will probably take some years, though.”
“We went to dinner one night, Amanda [Wallace’s girlfriend] and I, and I was like, ‘I’m surprised we’re not mic’d-up right now.’ ”
Leading up to the Daytona 500, there was a line of reporters outside the bus of Bubba Wallace. It became a media center on wheels.
After the Daytona 500 run, Bubba Wallace and him mom engaged in an emotional session. Tears of joy from both sides. Bubba Wallace just finished 2nd in the iconic #43!
“Just having them there,” Wallace said to Lee Spencer for Mobil1 The Grid . “I wish my dad could have been there. I’m a family guy, and it definitely showed there. All the pressure that had built up from the media side, from performing. I try not to put any pressure on myself – I don’t think I did – but all that pressure came crashing down.
“My mom was there, like always, to have that shoulder to cry into. It was just perfect timing.”
Bubba Wallace is driving for the famed Richard Petty Motorsports, formerly named Petty Enterprises. It’s a complete re-banding of that team. For 2018, they’re in a new shop with a new driver, a new sponsor and a new manufacture.
“He’s definitely taken me under his wing and it’s a different relationship than I’ve ever had with any team owner,” Wallace said.
“I think it shows every day. It’s exciting when he walks into the room – and he gets excited when I walk into the room. As long as we keep having that relationship and keep pressing forward and, as he said Thursday night, ‘We’re going to have the good days and we’re going to have the bad days’. But we’re all going to look forward to it.”
“I haven’t tried to do anything extra,” Wallace said. “I’m just here to race. I know what I’ve been doing the last 14-15 years, and I’ve always just wanted to win. No history and no extra pressure is going to change that. I’m going to have that until the day I retire – the day I die. When I’m 80-years-old, I’ll still want to be first in whatever I do.”
This is his big shot. It’s not a super team but they have an alliance with one. Ahead of the season, Richard Petty Motorsports signed a deal with Richard Childress Racing. They are sharing information for the betterment of both Chevrolet powered organizations.
And it’s working. Bubba Wallace has finished 2nd to RCR driver Austin Dillon in Daytona. Last week, Wallace was fast in practice rounds. He qualified 19th and was fighting in a and out of the top 10 for most of the day.
A huge smoke cloud formed on the back-straight from blown engine. Bubba Wallace drove into the smoke and came out with front end damage off the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Wallace went on to a DNF and a 32nd place finish.
Richard Petty is the winningest driver in the history of NASCAR. Of his astounding 200 wins, 192 of them came from behind the wheel of the #43.
“We’re starting a new chapter in the Petty book,” said the seven-time champion. “The Cup series is having a rejuvenation of people. Every 10-12 years, the clientele turns over. There’s a bunch of new guys coming in.”
“When we started looking around at the new guys coming in, we knew we wanted to get in on the youth movement, and Bubba was our likely course.”
“When we got him last year, he just kept improving. He’d get with the crew, get with the crew chief. He’s the kind of driver that can tell you what the car is doing and leaves it up to the crew chief so there’s no argument in what to do. That’s been really, really good, and it’s made it easier on our crew, to work with him because he works with us, too.”
“The deal that Bubba brings in is excitement. He talks to everybody and with the crew. He’s doing a heck of a job on the P.R. side for him, but that’s helping us, too. We excite him. He excites us. We had a great week at Daytona, and that’s paying off. The only thing that would have been better is if he had won the race.”
“He could be a guy that turns NASCAR around from the standpoint of being a minority and being young,” Petty said. “At RPM, I cover everybody from 40-up. He covers everybody from zero to 40. We’ve got the whole program. So, no matter what you want to do, no matter what you want to talk about, we transcend it.”
“But he doesn’t want to be known as a minority. He wants to be known as a Cup racer/winner. That’s his focus. And that’s our focus – to get him there.”
The last win for the #43 came in 2014. Aric Almirola picked up that win at Daytona in the July race.
Ahead of the Daytona 500, Bubba Wallace was one of most active driver in the press. He was everywhere including a non-stop NASCAR snapchat takeover. Ryan Blaney, his friend was encouraged to have a talk with Bubba Wallace. Encouraged by who? Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“He and I had a little bit of a talk – and not really a ‘talk’ – but just trying to relax him and tell him that he deserves to be here, and don’t let all that other stuff — it’s a good thing that he’s getting recognized in all forms of TV and entertainment and media and doesn’t see it as pressure, [but] sees it as a well-deserved opportunity that he got,” Blaney said.
“I think he dealt with it really well, and he proved that Sunday when he was able to kind of put all this behind him and just go out there and race. I don’t think he could have handled that a few years ago.”
“I think he’s matured a lot over the past two or three years, and, honestly, I feel like him sitting out a little bit last season really matured him a lot and made him appreciate the chances that he gets and the opportunities, and I think that humbled him a lot and made him grow up…”
“I think he did a really good job of dealing with everything on the track and off the track, and I’m pretty proud of him for that.”
Last year, Bubba Wallace entered his first NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. The same day, Ryan Blaney made his first trip to victory lane.
“I thought it was cool when we were both driving the 21 and 43 last year in a few races,” Blaney said. “I sat back and I told him, I’m like, ‘Man, we’re driving two of the most iconic cars in NASCAR. That’s really, really special that we’ve been able to do that.’
“But I think he can have a huge impact on that race car and that team. I can’t think of any better driver to put in that thing.”
Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace have been friends forever. They have that type of friendship were “you don’t knock. You just barge in.”
This week, NASCAR head to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. On the car, Bubba Wallace is bringing the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with him.