E.A. Sports Today

Bubba being Bubba

Alabama native (at least that’s what one of his birth certificates says) looks to repeat Daytona success in his first Cup start at Talladega

Daytona 500 runner-up Bubba Wallace (L) shares some laughs with Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch before meeting the media to discuss Sunday’s Geico 500. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – Bubba Wallace figures he’s had four to six birth certificates over the years depending on what age he needed to be to get on a particular track at that time in his life. That, he said, was a story for another time, but with inquiring minds assembled around you know he wasn’t going to get away with that kind of delay.

The birth certificate he’s using this week lists him being from Mobile, which makes him an instant favorite this week around Talladega Superspeedway. An extended member of the famed Alabama Gang, if only by birthright.

He’s actually living in North Carolina, though, where the Richard Petty Motorsports team shop is located, but the whole humorous birth certificate story raised an interesting point. Wallace pondered the question Thursday of whether he had to get out of Mobile to have the opportunities and success he’s currently enjoying in NASCAR today.

The story goes his father bought a Harley from a guy in North Carolina who ran go-carts out his motorcycle shop. That was Bubba’s intro to racing and now, growing up in the heart of NASCAR country, he’s among the young guns taking up (and taking over) the highest level of the sport.

“It’s tough to say, I don’t know,” Wallace said. “If we had that re-do button that a lot of us wish we’d do, it’d be interesting to see what would happen.

“My dad and my uncle have invested their whole life in industrial cleaning. My dad moved up to North Carolina for that. My uncle is still in Mobile doing that. Who knows? It was all because my dad bought a Harley-Davidson. The guy who fixed it up for him raced go-carts out of his motorcycle shop. I don’t know. But anything’s possible.”

Wallace will be making his first Monster Energy Cup start at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday in the Geico 500, driving the iconic No. 43 Richard Petty Chevy in a committed full-time ride with the team. He’s already taken their cars to two top-10 finishes this year, including a runner-up finish at the Daytona 500, and led a Cup lap for the first time last week at Bristol.

When the racing bug bit, he couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. Sometimes, though, he just wasn’t old enough to get on the track. It took some creative thinking, and some creative math, but he always managed to make his way to the starting grid.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when you want to race when you’re not old enough, right?” he said. “When I was 12, I was 16 and didn’t know it.”

Coming off the podium Thursday he assured the media he is 24 this week, born Oct. 8, 1994. For the record.

Racing with one of the sport’s iconic numbers on the door, an iconic sponsor on the fender and one the legends of the sport in the owners box carries some responsibility. Wallace doesn’t feel that burden. All he wants is be part to bring the Petty brand back to its past glory and if that’s a part on his attaining his ultimate goal of not just winning races but getting in the Hall of Fame, he’s all for it.

“No one’s gonna touch Richard Petty’s 200 wins, that’s not going to happen,” Wallace said. “I don’t expect me to live up to those standards; he doesn’t expect that, either. He knows times have changed; they were racing 60 races a year back then. For me, it’s getting comfortable and suited into the sport.

“We’ve had some good runs. Look at Bristol – if the rain would’ve came at that moment when we took the lead, that would’ve been crazy. But it didn’t. Races like those you build off of and it gives you that confidence you can do it. Not that I had a doubt, but when you go up there and take the lead off two of the best guys in the sport, that shows a lot to outsiders looking in, fans watching that weren’t necessarily fans of our team but now they are.

“So, right now it’s not about the 200 wins, carrying that winning legacy. It’s about rebuilding the program that they have right now because it hasn’t been the winning program that they’re used to back in the day for the last couple years. We’re trying to do that and I think I’ve showed a lot of positive light on the way our program has and with the limited amount of resources we have to work with we’re doing a lot of great things.”

Race Week Ahead

ARCA qualifying, 2:30 p.m.
General Tire 200, 5 p.m.
Xfinity qualifying, 10 a.m.
Monster Energy qualifying, noon
Sparks Energy 300, 2 p.m.
Geico 500, 1 p.m.

Here’s the hauler that brought Bubba Wallace’s car and equipment to Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

You must be logged in to post a comment Login