(SportsNetwork.com) – NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace is learning to embrace the outspoken status of black drivers in NASCAR.
Wallace, a 21-year-old rookie on the Sprint Cup circuit, recently said it was “upsetting” to not have more black faces in the sport. NASCAR said Wallace is “receiving feedback from race fans” and that he should “receiving more diversity from top to bottom” in the sanctioning body.
Wallace said there are “a lot of issues” that affect different races, and because of that, it’s a struggle for everyone in the paddock.
“We all want to be respected in our own way,” Wallace said. “If you say what you think, people can feel like, ‘I don’t know him. Why is he saying this?’ To me, I’ve just kind of embraced that and I think that it’s a learning process as you get older. That’s just what it is, and I think everybody can accept it.
“We’re all here, all we’re trying to do is race and win a race, and that’s all you’re really worried about, but if you can’t be yourself, what good is that?”
Wallace, who is part of Richard Petty Motorsports, will make his debut at Pocono Raceway at this weekend’s Pocono 400. He will be running the No. 3 for Richard Petty and Martin Truex Jr. in the race at Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
“There have been a lot of issues in our country lately, with race, and I think it’s important for everybody to understand that these guys aren’t doing this for publicity, they’re not doing this for press,” Wallace said. “They’re doing this to be able to say what they feel, and that’s all we can really ask for.”
Wallace attended Harding High School and was the NASCAR national champion in 2016, winning the high school points race.
“That’s how you measure where you are in this league,” Wallace said. “First and foremost, there is a lot of black drivers in this league right now. When I was first talking about it, there were not. Everybody dreams of going to a race like this, but a lot of these guys, they don’t have that opportunity. And I think people think I’m just being a little dramatic. For me, this is real life.
“The things that are going on in our country is real life. Nobody is going to forget that. So I think, as black people, we have a choice to make as well. You can let this cloud you out a bit and turn your head away, or you can be like, ‘If I’m going to be black in this world, then I’m going to speak on things that matter.'”
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said there were “no plans” to have Wallace speak at the governing body’s upcoming meetings.
Wallace is the first African-American driver to compete full-time in the Sprint Cup Series since 1997.