This is the second story in The Shadow League’s “NASCAR Black Prince” series, where we reflect on our Bubba Wallace coverage, dating back to 2013, when he was an unknown and following his rise through 2020. Bubba has evolved into an influential driver for diversity in a sports racing culture that has struggled for 70 years to become racially-inclusive.
The 2018 Daytona 500 NASCAR Monster Energy Series race will be remembered for a long time for many reasons, but most importantly it marked the first time since 1971 that an African-American driver would compete full-time for a Cup Series team as Darrell Bubba Wallace Jr. finished second driving the legendary No. 43 car for The King, Richard Pettys RPM outfit.
NASCAR invited a contingent of “Black Media” to cover the event with unlimited access to the grounds, the pits, the athletes, NASCAR executives and the crews who make the cars go and the drivers look good.
We were even driven around the track several times by actual race cars with an experienced chauffeur that could whip the mobile and make it jump like a kid getting the switch back in ’66, providing us with a hint of what the drivers experience
We covered the entire weekend and got the exclusive with Bubba leading up to his historic finish at the legendary race, the highest finish for a Black driver in Daytona 500 history.
WATCH- Bubba Wallace and the 2018 Daytona 500
The weekend’s celebration of diversity was further emphasized by NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity program, which has actively recruited, cultivated and included African-American talent into the mix in various capacities, from driving race cars and working in pit crews to making decisions within NASCAR’s executive offices.
Combine that new element and the diverse media interest and attention that black faces and a superstar black driver inevitably brings to NASCAR, and add in Danica Patrick retiring and Austin Dillon winning the race driving Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s legendary No. 3 car on the 17th anniversary of Earnhardt’s death and you have a recipe for NASCAR excellence.
We were fortunate enough to be on the scene documenting these moments, interviewing the changing faces of NASCAR and immersing ourselves in an event and experience that now embraces diversity and the talents that people of color bring to the NASCAR culture.