Black driver hard on himself after rough NASCAR debut

BY JAKE LOURIM
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/
TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s first NASCAR Cup Series start did not go as he planned — he finished 26th and even fainted when he emerged from his car. He wanted to be upbeat, but he did not sugarcoat his performance.

NASCAR drivers Darrell Wallace Jr., left, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. enjoy a moment together during the Daytona 500 Media Day on Feb. 22 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach.
(JEFF SINER/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/TNS)

On June 11 in the Pocono 400, Wallace became the first African-American driver to start a Cup Series race since Bill Lester in 2006, but he called it “an embarrassment.”

While answering questions outside his car, Wallace stopped midsentence, looked faint, and began to collapse. Reporters and team members braced him, and amid the post-race frenzy, everyone in sight scrambled to get water to him.

No complications
Paramedics carted him to the infield care center, where he hydrated and recovered with no complications. He said he passed out from anger about his finish, and he said it has happened before.

“I’m beyond (ticked) off at myself,” Wallace said. “I think I did one good job of running every lap — not on the lead lap, but … an embarrassment on my part. Everybody else did their job. I didn’t.”

A dream fulfilled
Lost in that, perhaps, was the magnitude of Wallace’s start. He fulfilled his longtime dream. His parents and girlfriend flew in to watch him.

All of that sank in once Wallace arrived at his news conference.

“Aside from (the frustration), I will cheer up and thank everybody involved in this process,” Wallace said. “This was a wonderful day for me, a wonderful day for the sport. I wish we could have got a little bit better finish in our Smithfield Ford, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

Next move
Wallace will move on from the excitement of his debut into his next start in relief of injured driver Aric Almirola.

“We’re ecstatic,” crew chief Drew Blickensderfer said. “Bubba did a great job. We’re thrilled to have him in the car, some stability back in the 43. We know he’s in the car until Aric gets back.”

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