Bubba Wallace says “things are changing for the better” after speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year.
Wallace, 27, is Nascar’s sole black full-time driver and called for change in the fight for racial equality.
He was also approached by basketball legend Michael Jordan to form a single-car team, with Wallace as their driver.
“Looking back on everything, there was a lot of good and bad, and we were able to come out on top,” said Wallace.
“I am starting to realise it’s much more than just being a race car driver. This is how can we come together as one and unite the world to do the same, to make it a better place.
“We’re having fun talking about creative and innovative ways to make society better, for us, for everyday life and for the next generation as well. It’s been cool to digest and bounce around ideas on how we can do that.”
Wallace successfully campaigned to get the Confederate flag banned from Nascar races in June.
He then feared he had been subject to a racial attack when a noose was found in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
But an FBI investigation concluded that it was actually a handle on a garage door and had been there since the previous year, so “no federal crime was committed”.
“Speaking out and standing up for what I thought was right, I had to do it,” Wallace told the BBC World Service Sportshour programme. “It felt like ‘you know what, this needs to be said’.
“This was putting down the race car driver face and still wearing my human being face, so seeing how partners and people rallied behind me was incredible.
“Things are changing for the better. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time, but I think moving forward, we are eventually going to see a better place for all of us.
“Seeing how I was elevated to much greater heights, from where I was at the beginning of the season, is kind of surreal.
“It angers me a little that I became a household name off the race track. It just means I’ve got more work to do on the race track.”
Driving for MJ
Wallace has driven in the Nascar Cup Series for four years, with his best race finish being second place at the Daytona 500 in 2018, and his best overall standing being 22nd this year.
In 2021, he will be driving for 23XI Racing, owned by NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, with current Nascar driver Denny Hamlin a minority partner.
“I got excited when I got a text from a number I didn’t know and at the end it said MJ,” said Wallace.
“There’s only one MJ that I know of and I have to be driving for him, so I was like ‘that’s pretty cool’.
“But I quickly realised ‘hey, we’ve got a lot of work to do’. I just knew this was a new opportunity for me and then it was back to game face. He told me that, if we do this deal, there’s no more running at the back. And I said ‘yes sir, we’ll do it’.
“We’re a small team, and a brand new team. We have all the resources and personnel to be successful so it’s up to us to prepare for battle. My motto for 1 January is no more excuses. Our goal is getting to the play-offs and trying to last as far as we can.
“When that first win comes, it’ll be much bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”