Kyle Larson called Wallace but was sent to voicemail several times before Wallace decided to call him back; Here’s the details of the conversation
In April, NASCAR was on pause, with the rest of the world. Drivers turned to the digital racing world of iRacing and began racing from the quarantined environment of their living rooms.
In a late night session, a race took place on the digital Monza oval. The track is unused and highly unsafe in the modern era. However, it’s a showstopper on the internet.
During the hosted session, Kyle Larson was attempting to reach his personal spotter on a private channel. In the process, he used the n-word. However, Larson accidentally pressed the wrong button and the word was sent to the public airwaves for thousands of race fans to hear.
The same night, moments after using the word, Larson called fellow NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace. He left a crying voicemail, according to Wallace.
Larson called again the next day and he was again sent to voicemail. Days later, Wallace called Mike Metcalf Jr, a Black crew member for Larson’s former No. 42 team.
Around the time Larson was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing, Wallace decided to give him a call back.
Bubba Wallace comments on Kyle Larson
“He was super apologetic,” Bubba Wallace recently said of the phone call with Larson via SportsCenter Presents 2020: Heroes, History and Hope on ESPN.
“I said, ‘Hey man, it’s in your vocabulary, dog.’ It ain’t just like, ‘Oh, am I going to say it again?’ If you use that on regular — I don’t know if he does or not — but it sounds like to me you do, then you have got to get that out of your vocabulary, you know?”
“People say to me, ‘Hey, they say it in rap music.’ Whatever, that’s that culture,” Wallace says. “It’s not the NASCAR culture. It’s not. We know what to say and what not to say. You sign the dotted line, you don’t say stupid s— like that.”
“If someone really wants to talk, let’s talk. I want to talk. But you have to want to talk with me.”
Wallace calls for ban of Confederate Flag
Wallace had a roller coaster season off and at the race track in 2020. During a CNN interview, Wallace requested that NASCAR take the next steps in the course of taking a stand. His idea of the next step was to ban the Confederate flag.
Days later, NASCAR did just that. In the next race, Wallace ran a ‘Black Lives Matter’ paint scheme during the race at Martinsville Speedway where he finished 11th.
Soon after, planes were flying at multiple race tracks, pulling banners with the phrase ‘Defund NASCAR’. First, the plane from Sons of the Confederate was seen at over Talladega Superspeedway and later a similar banner was seen over Bristol Motor Speedway.
“My dad said, ‘You got a gun?'” Wallace said of a conversation with his father. “I was like, no. He said, ‘Man, you might want to get one.’ He said, ‘Just watch your back.'”
Ahead of the race at Talladega Superspeedway, a noose was discovered in the garage area. The FBI was called to the scene and the Governor of Alabama also took notice.
“He walked up the steps and sat on my dash of the bus, and he looked down at his feet, just quiet,” Wallace recalls. “I’m ready to speak, and he looked up with tears in his eyes and was struggling to formulate sentences, just so much emotion.”
“He said, ‘Uh, there was a hate crime that was committed today.’ And I was like, ‘To my mom, dad, my sister? Are they OK? [My girlfriend] Amanda? Is she OK?’ And he said, ‘There was a noose found in your garage.’ And my first reaction was, ‘OK, cool, my family wasn’t attacked.'”
A day later, it was discovered that the noose was installed in the garage as early as 2019. Thus, the garage pull was not a hate crime intended for Bubba Wallace.
“[I was like], thank God. Awesome, great news,” Wallace says.
“But as soon as they announced it, I went from Bubba Wallace, the somewhat favorite driver, to the worst-hated driver in the sport. And from there it was Jussie Smollett, a fake news hoax, all that stuff. That I planted it, [that] I was in the garage and I did it.”
“Look at the picture. What’s it look like to you?” Wallace says.
“Is that a noose to you, or is that just another fisherman’s knot? You tie that knot every day? You tie your shoestrings like that? No. No. That took time to do. It’s a noose.”
“So, there you go. Yeah, you can’t hang somebody with that size. Don’t matter, no matter if it’s this big or life-size, whatever it is, it’s still a noose.”
Wallace still being attacked
“You want to defend yourself, but you’ve got to look at who you represent, too,” Wallace says.
“It’s ongoing every day I click. If you tweet something about me, I’ll click on it and just not even read the article, but I’ll just go in there and look at the replies. It’s ‘Great article, noose boy’ or, ‘Here we go with Bubba again, shoving it down our throats.’ “
“I just read the replies and I shouldn’t, but it motivates me. [And I just think], ‘Damn, one day, one day.’ … I know it’s going to happen, and when we do win and become a household name on the racetrack, you’ll be quiet. And don’t come to the party when the doors are open, though, ’cause your ass ain’t getting in.”
For 2021, both of these drivers will be running out of new stables.
Kyle Larson will return to the NASCAR Cup Series. After being fired from Chip Ganassi Racing he’ll drive the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports.
Bubba Wallace will also start a new venture in 2021. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin have started a brand new race team. Wallace will drive the No. 23 for the operation that has a close affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing.