NASCAR CUP SERIES
DIXIE VODKA 400
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 12, 2020
BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CAMARO ZL1 1LE, spoke with media via teleconference and discussed social injustice and the importance of that to him, along with the busy racing schedule and how he is managing that, the speed in the Richard Petty Motorsports cars, his expectations at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
IT’S BEEN A BIG WEEK FOR YOU. TALK ABOUT YOUR EXCITEMENT LEVEL AS YOU ARE GETTING READY TO HEAD TO HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
“Oh, is that what’s next on the schedule? (laughs) I wouldn’t know. Yeah, Homestead is fun. It’s going to be different going back this time of year. Usually it’s the last race of the season, so that’s a big change for the sport. It should be good. The weather I’ve seen doesn’t look too good, but it’s past dark, so that’s about normal.”
HAVE YOU HAD ANY TALKS WITH PEOPLE ABOUT WHETHER TO KNEEL DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM? AND IF SO, WHAT HAS BEEN THE CONTEXT OF THOSE TALKS?
“Oh, the manager asked me about it and we didn’t get into depth, but I’m still looking up and reading on stuff and learning exactly what the message we are trying to push across; learn and understand. I think the messages that I have been putting out there on the race tracks during the anthem is speaking for itself, so I haven’t put much forethought into that. I loved that the official, Kirk Price, took that initiative and stood for what he believed in, kneeled for what he believed in. A man that served our nation in the military kneeled. So I thought that was pretty powerful.”
HAVE OTHER ATHLETES IN OTHER SPORTS REACHED OUT TO YOU, INCLUDING MAYBE THOSE WHO HAVE SPOKEN UP ABOUT SOCIAL INJUSTICE IN THE PAST, AND PROVIDED A SOUNDING BOARD OR TO CONSULT YOU IN THIS TIME TO HELP YOU AS YOU TALK ABOUT LEARNING AND LISTENING AND GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS? IF SO, WHO HAVE THEY BEEN AND HOW HAVE THEY TRIED TO ADVISE OR CONSULT YOU DURING THIS TIME?
“Obviously you’ve seen the public outreach to LeBron (James). That was pretty big. Josh Dobbs, who I’ve been communicating with on and off since we were able to meet at the University of Tennessee practice session there, which was a lot of fun. He’s been in my corner every step of the way. I’ve supported him in everything. He reached out last night with some powerful quotes that he lives by, and that made a ton of sense and just kind of fit the narrative that we are living in the world today. There’s been a lot of outreach just from social media fan points, privately, that was probably one of the ones; but there is a lot of support in my corner from all aspects; from sports, from just normal people, people that are wanting to stand up for what’s right in this world.”
OBVIOUSLY, A LOT HAS BEEN PUT ON YOUR SHOULDERS. WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE; AND THE RESPONSIBILITY AND THE WEIGHT OF THIS WEEK OR EVEN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, FOR YOU?
“It’s definitely been a lot. It’s mentally taxing. But, we were talking earlier, it’s that part of the pedestal that you sign-up for. It doesn’t say that on the front page, the book of being an athlete or an icon in the sport, it doesn’t say that on the front page of what you’re going to have to go through. It’s just part of it. It’s in the fine print, the underlying print there, that you have to go through. And when you sign-up to become something, you’re signing-up to become something larger than yourself and representing something more than yourself. And so, it’s part of it.
“I’m learning how to manage that, along with the racing-side of things; the on-track things, I have to manage that, as well as manage what’s going on off the track. I would say off the track is a lot more busy and a lot more hectic. I’m thankful for no practice or the three-day shows that we’re used to, because I’d be wiped-out by practice time. So, it’s good to just kind of stay focused on this throughout the week, but you’ve definitely got to do a quick shift, a mind shift, going into the race. So, it’s challenging, but I’m learning every step of the way.”
NOW THAT THE (CONFEDERATE) FLAG AND THE PROTEST ISSUES HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED, WHAT MORE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR DO IN THIS AREA? AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OVER THE YEARS AT THE TRACK; TIMES YOU MAY HAVE FELT UNCOMFORTABLE THERE?
“Yeah, next steps, I don’t know. I would love to see us get back to normal and allow fans to come back in full capacity, just to see how much more diverse or what different demographics we bring in. So, I would love to see studies on that as we start allowing fans to come back. But, we are talking about next steps and how to keep the message and keep the ball rolling, here on Tuesday with a couple of key leaders of NASCAR and a couple of drivers that have been pushing the efforts, too. I’m excited about that phone call.
“My past experiences; I like to go out and sometimes spend time in the infield with the fans and have a good time, and I haven’t been ridiculed against. I know that’s going to change now. I’ve got to be careful what I do. That’s kind of where we live in. My dad has texted me. He was proud of what I was doing on and off the race track, but he was worried about my safety; you know, going out in public and whatnot. So, it’s just crazy you have to think about that side of things. So, you’ve definitely got to watch your back now, and can’t be like that outspoken guy, just happy-go-lucky guy that would go take a trip on the golf cart or my longboard down into the infield, or whatever, and have a good time. So, it’s definitely different. But, my past experience wasn’t anything that was blown out of proportion of something that bothered me. We always had a good time at the race track.”
I’VE INTERVIEWED YOU A COUPLE OF TIMES AND WE TALKED ABOUT OUTREACH AND YOU TALKED ABOUT GOING INTO THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS AND SOME OF THE PROGRAMS. THE LATEST MOVES FROM NASCAR AREN’T NECESSARILY OUT OF THE BLUE. THERE HAVE BEEN EFFORTS TO INCREASE THE DIVERSITY, MAYBE NOT SEEN IN THE PUBLIC REALM, IF YOU’RE NOT LOOKING FOR IT. HOW DO YOU SUGGEST NASCAR MAKES THOSE EFFORTS A LITTLE BIT MORE PUBLIC, OBVIOUSLY AFTER WE GET SOME SENSE OF NORMALCY AFTER COVID-19?
“I think you’re right. We have to do a little bit more diving deep into our communities and doing some public outreach there. Like I said, we’ll kind of get more of a direction and step past, after this phone call on Tuesday, so I don’t know. Right now I’m brainstorming ideas with my team to come up with what we could do locally and help organizations and whatnot grow, and get them a part of the sport or expose them to the sport, really.
“Not everybody has social media. Not everybody watches the news or hears what’s going on, so we have to make sure we’re getting our message across to all people that somewhat have an interest of wanting to be a part of the sport. We have to solidify that message that we have conveyed over the last couple of weeks so that we don’t stand what’s been going on, we’re standing up for quality, unity, love, compassion, and understanding; just like it read on our race car on Wednesday (at Martinsville, No. 43 Black Lives Matter Camaro ZL1 1LE).
A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE SPORTS WORLD REALLY APPLAUD NASCAR’S MOVE THIS WEEK. MANY IN THE NASCAR COMMUNITY THEMSELVES, ADDRESSED HEAD-ON THE FANS WHO MAY BE FRUSTRATED WITH THE BAN. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE FANS THAT MAYBE BROUGHT FLAGS TO THE TRACK IN THE PAST AND MAY BE CONSIDERING NOT COMING BACK BECAUSE OF THE BAN?
“I’d look at what Marty Smith (ESPN) said. It was the fans that are upset were not NASCAR. We are not closing a door on you, we’re opening up a door for many others. And that speaks volumes right there. And Marty has been a huge advocate in my corner the last couple of weeks, the last couple of days; I got a text message from him this morning. We’ve been very open with each other. And, I think what he said there is spot-on. It’s not something that we’re not trying to take out of your daily life or whatnot, we’re trying to just allow….. What I want is just for people to not feel uncomfortable. The first thing they talk about is feeling uncomfortable because of something that reminds them of a negative past and that has so much negative history behind it. And yeah, to you it might seem like it’s heritage, but others see hate. And I don’t understand why it’s so hard for us. We’re selfish. We’re a selfish nation, but we need to come together and meet in the middle and be like, you know what? If this bothers you, I don’t mind taking it down. I’m not saying go to your house and get rid of everything you have. It’s just, at a sporting event, a public event, where all walks of life are welcome, let’s just get rid of it. So, like Marty said, we’re not closing the door on you. We’re opening it up to many others. Not about you.”
YOU’RE ALL ABOUT CHASING THE CHECKERED FLAG RIGHT NOW, BUT THAT HAD TO FEEL LIKE YOU’RE FIRST REAL WIN THIS WEEK. IT WAS SUCH AN EMOTIONAL WEEK FOR YOU. CAN YOU COMPARE? MAYBE THAT WAS THE FIRST VICTORY, AND HOPEFULLY A LOT MORE FOR YOU.
“Yeah, it would have been sweet. I thought, the way we fired-off there, I was oh like, oh, this might be setting up to be a beautiful beginning because I thought we’d go win the race with the speed we had at Martinsville. We kind of lost it there, halfway through; and rallied back there, late. Yeah, this was definitely the biggest race of my career and not knocking the Daytona 500 debut, or even my Pocono debut in the No. 43 car. It’s just something that it was so much historical impact and movement behind this race that we had just had, that it just overpowered everything else that I’ve gone through. Standing it up for what I believe is right in the world; that’s very important to me. Maybe I didn’t stand up in the past, but now is more than the time of ever, to take leadership and to represent not only myself, but the sport of NASCAR, and my sponsors, my team, and everybody involved that helps me to get to the race track and keep my brain going. It’s something that’s hard to describe fully, but definitely the biggest race of my career. So yeah, it felt like a win. We finished 11th. I don’t see that as a win. I see that as the 10th loser. We have some work to do.”
GROWING UP IN A RACIAL FAMILY, HAVE YOU HAD CHALLENGES WHERE YOU’VE HAD TO PROVE YOUR BLACKNESS TO OTHER PEOPLE OR WHERE PEOPLE HAVE TRIED TO CHALLENGE IT AND ALSO, THE PRESSURES OF BEING IN NASCAR. WHAT’S THAT LIKE FOR YOU IN SUCH A WHITE-DOMINATED SPORT?
“Yeah, no, I think what I go through, and before all this, I didn’t have it as bad as other African Americans in the community. One, I stay home. I sit on the couch. I’m lazy. I love doing that. It’s my favorite thing to do. But, even the encounters I’ve had were very few. But they were powerful. The negative encounters I’ve had with law enforcement were very few, but they stood out. And, they definitely left a toll on me and something that you don’t really pay attention, but it kind of comes back full-circle when all this is being talked about and you’re discriminated against because of skin color. The comments made, can you afford this car? It’s just like, really? What year are we in. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I do. You don’t know how much money I make. So, it doesn’t give you the right to ask that question, but I kind of get what you are insinuating. You think because I’m African American and drive a really nice car, you wonder what I do. Do I sell drugs or whatever it is? It’s something that I’ve gone through and it’s unfortunate for me to be a part of that.
“But then I think of how bad others have it every day. I’ve talked to multiple people that my fame and who I am, my name, gets me out of a lot. And necessarily, is that right? No, it’s not. We should all be treated equally. No matter who you are or what profession you have, we should all get treated equally. But that’s just not how the system works. And the system is so broken in the world that we live it today. And so, there’s a lot we have to do to change that. That’s not going to change overnight. We’ve been trying to change that for many years. Taking it one step at a time, step-by-step, brick by brick, and building up a new image for the world.”
WITH THE WHOLE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT, PEOPLE HAVE HAD THE FREEDOM TO SPEAK OUT. WHEN YOU CHOSE TO SPEAK OUT, WERE YOU MENTALLY PREPARED FOR THE REACTION YOU WOULD GET IN THE NASCAR CULTURE?
“No, I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew there would be a lot of ‘all lives matter’ people. One thing that really opened my eyes was after the Bristol race, I got in a little Twitter argument with a respectable guy on there, and he kind of labeled me as a ‘all lives matter’-guy. And I responded back; yes, all lives do matter. I believe in all of us coming together to understanding that black lives matter, to kind of create this new image and push that message across. And so, we took the messaging privately and talked and had a really good conversation. He’s been a supporter of mine for a really long time. So, those are the conversations that you need to have. You kind of get sparked-up, fired-up, and want to say something back, but you handle it with class and move it privately and talk things out and get a better understanding. It goes back to the messaging that we always say: Listen and learn and understand what people are going through and what they’re talking about. And it’s as simple as saying, when we say Black Lives Matter, there’s a poster of a little girl that says, yes we said black lives matter. No, we did not say that only black lives matter. We know that all lives matter. But, we are trying to make you all understand that black lives matter, too. Too. T-o-o. Its three letters that are left off that people don’t understand. Black lives matter, too. Families are worried about their kids going out and driving for the first time and getting pulled over and being killed. The African American community is so worried about that. Like, we shouldn’t live like that. The African American community should not live like that. And so we’re trying to get other people to understand just how tough it is to live in this world right now.”
DURING THIS WHOLE TIME, THAT IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF THIS STUFF HAS BEEN GOING ON OUTSIDE OF THE TRACK, YOU’VE ACTUALLY BEEN ABLE TO ENJOY SOME OF THE STRONGEST CARS YOU’VE BEEN GETTING OUT OF RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS, PROBABLY SINCE YOUR TENURE. YOU’VE HAD HICCUPS ALONG THE WAY THAT HAVE PREVENTED YOU FROM CAPITALIZING ON THEM A LOT, BUT WHAT HAS IT FELT LIKE TO SHOW UP AT THE RACE TRACE MORE CONSISTENTLY AND BEING IN THE MIX OF THE OUTCOME OF THE RACE, ALONG WITH EVERYTHING ELSE THAT’S BEEN GOING ON?
“Thanks for bringing that up. As much as we talk about racing, you kind of get lost in the translation of what’s going on today, so it’s nice to talk about it a little bit. My guys have done a really good job and everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports, ever since we were kind of allowed to go back into the shops, they’ve been busting their tails to get our Camaro race cars competitive and fast. So yes, we’ve had some hiccups. Charlotte was definitely and eyesore for us, and a headache. I wish we could go back and do those again because we had a ton of speed. The hubs didn’t last there, but I’m proud of the efforts that we’re doing on the race track. And, I’m super thankful for what they’re doing off the race track, just for me. From Richard Petty to Andy Murstein and everybody at RPM standing behind me, and believing in me for on-track, but also following this journey off-track, and letting me find my way and find my voice and stand up for what is right. So, it’s a whole team effort. It’s a very collaborative group that I’m excited to be with. And, we’ll keep pushing the envelope. We’ve got a lot of racing left. It kind of slows down a little bit now, with the midweek races done for a little bit, so we’ll focus on Homestead. We’ve got a good package going there, so I’m excited about that.”
YOU MENTIONED THAT WHEN YOU STARTED THE MARTINSVILLE RACE, THAT YOU HAD A FEELING FOR A MOMENT THAT THIS CAR IS SO GOOD, WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO WIN THIS RACE. HAS THAT HAPPENED VERY OFTEN, SO FAR, IN YOUR CUP CAREER? WHAT IS A LITTLE BIT OF A SURPRISE FOR YOU?
“I’d say Indy last year, we all that that moment. We have our little moments of success and I’d like some success. And it’s up to me, at the end of the race, to capitalize on and when a car underneath you is well-built like my guys have done the last couple of weeks, they believe in me to go out and get the job done. So, it’s been fun to go out and showcase what I’ve been able to do in years past of winning races and bringing out my competitive edge and go up against some of the best. At the end, I was battling seven-time, Jimmie Johnson, a nine-time winner at Martinsville. We were trying to get past him. He started right in front of me at the beginning of the race, and finished right in front of me at the end of the race. But, it was fun just seeing who we’re up against and passing good cars and being competitive and showing guys like, hey, no matter what car I’m in we’re going to be competitive and give it my all. And, it may not be every race, but those races that we do have those moments are going to stick out and I’m going to be a force to be reckoned with, so I’m not going to back-down to anybody.”
CAN YOU TALK MORE SPECIFICALLY ABOUT HOMESTEAD THIS WEEKEND? NORMALLY YOU RACE THERE AT NIGHT IN NOVEMBER. NOW YOU’LL BE IN THE DAYTIME IN JUNE. HOW DIFFERENT WILL THAT BE? DO YOU START FROM SCRATCH, OR DO SOME NOTES STILL APPLY?
“No, I think some notes still apply, for sure. And we start a little bit during the day for the Cup race there. And, I’m pretty sure; well, we ran during the day in the Xfinity race at little bit as well there, as well. It may have ended at night. But all in all, it’s a race track. It’s not and slick. Its wore out. We’re going to be two-tenths our fastest lap by lap one-and-a-half. It’s definitely got to kind of be treated the same there. We’re going to be searching around and moving around a lot for grip and riding right up against the fence. We’ll find out. Everything is kind of new to us as we travel through. We’ll have some rubber on the race track from the Xfinity cars, so that’ll be interesting. But, we’ll just get there and I’ll let you know after the fact.”
ALEX BOWMAN TALKED ABOUT THE HEAT AT MARTINSVILLE. HE SAID IT WAS THE HOTTEST HE’D EVER BEEN IN A RACE CAR AND THAT HE LOST A TON OF WEIGHT AND HE’S TRYING TO GAIN IT BACK. HE SAID THE SCHEDULE IS INSANE. DO YOU CONCUR WITH HIM ON THAT? AND YOU’RE DOING ALL THIS EXTRA STUFF. ALEX IS JUST RACING. TALK ABOUT WHETHER YOU FELT THE SAME IN THE CAR AND IF IT’S JUST HOT AND INSANE
“Yeah, I’m battling two jobs here. There’s a lot going on mentally, off the track. My phone batter is going to die here in probably about five minutes, so that might be a good thing for me. And I can focus on some racing stuff. No, this schedule is tough. And it was hot, for sure. Atlanta was a wake-up call of just how much extra stress is being added. I talked to Jimmie Johnson about Atlanta. He had come over and offered some help and he wanted to talk. We were sitting there talking. Stress, it doesn’t matter if it’s positive stress or negative stress is what he said. Stress takes a toll on your body. And going through all that, on top of racing and humidity and heat, is just another factor going-in. Would it have been a different outcome at Atlanta? Maybe. If we didn’t have all this stuff going on? Maybe. Was I mad and frustrated and moving too fast after all that? For sure. I should have kind of taken it slow like I did in Martinsville. I was definitely gassed after Martinsville. It was hot. No doubt about it. And, I was actually thinking like damn, it’s nighttime, it’s fully night, a full moon is out, whatever it is, and it’s still 90 degrees inside here. But, at the end of the race, I took my time. I walked over and sat on pit wall. I sat there for 20 minutes after the race just kind of gathering myself and not moving around so much just because your body is not ready for that, yet. So, it’s tough. It’s mentally draining throughout the week, and then it’s just highlighted more, exclamation point added to it, when you have to go out and race 400 to 500 miles on that Sunday. It’s a lot, But, like I said earlier, I’m learning every step of the way and making sure I’m eating right and drinking right and getting some physical activity in.”
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HANDLE IT ROLLING FORWARD INTO MIAMI? THERE ARE PROBABLY STILL A LOT OF REQUESTS FROM PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TALK TO YOU. AND IT’S JUST ONE RACE RIGHT AFTER THE OTHER. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO HANDLE IT?
“I am a ‘in the moment’ type of guy. So, bring it on. We’ll find it out.”
IS THERE A MOMENT WHERE YOU JUST BURST INTO TEARS OR CRY HAVE HAD A HARD TIME BEHIND THE SCENES?
“No, I haven’t had one of those moments. It’s definitely been a lot. But it’s kind of been knowing what I’m standing up for and being a leader in this message. It’s positive stress. It’s kind of made me feel good about things and not work me down too much. But, just the work that’s going into it is a lot. And, it’s taken away from what I would like to be doing physically to stay in shape. But, it’s part of it.”
WENDELL SCOTT’S FAMILY IS HOPING TO HAVE THE TROPHY AWARDED TO THEM FOR HIS HISTORIC WIN AT JACKSONVILLE. THEY PUT OUT A VIDEO URGING NASCAR TO DO A CEREMONY FOR IT. HAVE YOU HAD CONTACT WITH THE FAMILY AND HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT FOR AN ICON LIKE HIM TO HAVE THE TROPHY WITH THE FAMILY?
“Yeah, for sure. I think that’s big. And, obviously that brings up a time when the sport was not in a good place. But, that’s back when things like that were normal in this nation, of discrimination; and we are trying to obviously get away from that and push a new message. And Wendell Scott, Jr. texted me and reached out and he’s proud of what I’m doing and he’s glad to see some competitiveness on the race track. That speaks volumes to him and his family. But as far as the ceremony, I think that would be big. And, I’ll actually mention that and talk with Steve Phelps (NASCAR president) and how they’re going to handle that. It’s kind of a sticky situation, but it definitely needs to be done.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
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