CHEVY MENCS AT DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY: Bubba Wallace Press Conf. Transcript

FEBRUARY 14, 2018

BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 CLICK N’ CLOSE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Daytona 500 Media Day. Full Transcript:

Could you talk a little bit about how to someone who’s just like a casual NASCAR observer, who doesn’t really pay scant attention to the sport, might see you coming in and say, I wonder if they’re giving him a ride because of his heritage, where if they do their homework they’ll see you have won on all these levels.

“Yeah, that’s the gap we have to kind of bridge there. I kind of went on a hiatus these last three years just giving it my all and just coming up short in the XFINITY Series, and I think with the amount of coverage that I’m getting right now and the entourage that I have following, a lot of people expect, oh, who’s this kid coming up through with this media; he should be winning. And they don’t really pay enough attention to the sport to know the ins and outs to know that winning one of these races is not just a cake walk. It could be taken away from you in just a matter of seconds, inches. There’s that ‑‑ it’s hard to relay that message. It’s not ‑‑ like I’m saying, it’s not turn on the TV, oh, he’s running 15th. Well, that’s ‑‑ who is this kid. You’ve got to look at all the circumstances. You’ve got to look at what I’m going through that day, if we’ve missed the setup or even if we’ve had engine problems or something. That’s just something that’s just holding us back. Some of these days, some of those races I’m going to be running top 5 and I’ve got to be able to do the best at managing that. There’s going to be some weekends where I can’t find my way out of 20th or 15th. That’s just like everybody in the sport. We all have our good days, we all have our bad days. You’ve just got to capitalize on those good ones.”

At what point in your life did you feel that, okay, I know I want to do this; this is what I want to do when I grow up?

“It was about 16. I was actually late. We did it just to do it and just to have fun and to just keep trying new and more challenging ways. My dad was always ‑‑ what do you think about this car. Sometimes it would be like, look what I just got you, this is what we’re going to go race next weekend, and I was like, okay. We would find ways to be successful and become really competitive week in and week out, and that’s how we just kept climbing up the ladder, and the next thing you know, one door led to another, and we were in the K&N Series. We were with Revolution Racing, we were with JGR, and we didn’t ‑‑ we weren’t like, wow, we didn’t expect this to happen, we just did it. I just wanted to win at everything I climbed in, and winning goes a long way in the sport. It doesn’t go all the way, but we just kept doing that, and it was on pit road at Dover, we qualified on a pole for the K&N race, and it was like, can’t really turn back now. We’ve got to stick with it. Went on to win that race.”

Did you ever play any other sports before you got into this?

“I played basketball before I started racing. I did one season of football, and I hated it. I didn’t like the practicing part. It was too hot. I was like a nose guard.”

How old were you?

“Six maybe.”

You’ve not been shy about the fact that to a large extent history rides with you when you get in the car. How aware are you and how important is that to you? It’s black history month.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that’s riding this weekend. I know it. I pay attention to it. I follow a lot of people on social media, and it’s being put out there, but I’m doing my best at managing it, keeping it behind me, and that’s the best thing I can do. I’ve let going into the truck debut here at Daytona, I let all the media, oh, here comes Bubba out of the K&N Series and all that stuff, see how he stacks up, and I’m like, I’ve got to be top of the board. I’ve got to win qualifying. I’ve got to win the race. What do you do? You wreck out because you’re not focused on what you really need to be focused on. It’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years. Even XFINITY debut, I wanted to do the best that I could and over‑try, overstep my boundaries, and my day is done. What do you know, you look at the stats sheet and Bubba finished 30th. That’s great. My debut wasn’t much better in the Cup car. Damn speeding four times. But that was a little bit more in my control. But I went out there ‑‑ I was super calm and relaxed that day, and it felt so good to be in that state of mind, to be able to go out and just race and make those mistakes and learn from them and not be thinking like, holy crap, I’m not leading the race right now. Let’s speed because of that. Let’s just get worked up about something that’s out of my control. For me it was just to be super relaxed, and that’s how I’m taking this season with everything that’s riding on it.”

Do you feel like RPM is in catch‑up mode even though you’re fully moved in and welcome at this point?

“Yeah, I think we’ve still got a lot of headway to clear out. Coming from where we were at last year, where they were at least year, to where they’re at now, they’ve made a lot of improvements. I think this is a great switch over to Chevrolet and to RCR. I think that’s going really well. But no matter ‑‑ it doesn’t take just one season for a team just to be like a light switch and turn things up. It’s going to take us a little bit, and I’m just excited to get to Atlanta. I’m excited to run my 500, my first 500, but excited to get to Atlanta, Phoenix and Vegas and places like that to really see how we stack up. You know, it’s a little bit up in the air of what we’ll be like, but from how we ran last year at Kentucky and my first four races, I’m excited about it. It’ll be good.”

This season you finally got the ride; how is it to know you have that full‑time gig now and don’t have to fight your way ‑‑

“Yeah, it’s definitely a stress reliever knowing that I have a permanent home for this year. I couldn’t be more thankful to Richard Petty, the King, for allowing me to step behind the wheel of the No. 43 and let me pile in it all year and let me showcase everything. Just thinking about that and looking where we were at last year at this time, telling you guys, yeah, we’ll be racing at Homestead, basically BS’ing, just to try to get you guys to latch on to that, and it didn’t work out. To be here now and say that I’ll be running full‑time as a rookie in my first Cup season is pretty damned cool.”

Can you take us back to the moment where you found out that you were going to get this full‑time gig? Who told you? What was it like?

“Yeah, we were talking, it was my manager up at Fuel, and he was in contact with Brian Moffitt at RPM. We were ‑‑ phone calls after phone calls, emails after emails, just trying to figure out what we could do, and that was an exciting couple weeks. Some good days, some really bad days. Yeah, we got this, no, we don’t have this. We’ll talk to you when we have something else, have a good day, have a good week, and then it was like, okay, we’re good, let’s go race the 43 car. Like all right.”

Is there any added pressure that you’re in the 43 car?

“No, Richard Petty told me before climbing in, no need to be a hero. No need to overstep anything that you’re doing. I’m here for a reason, and I’m here because I’ve proved my point, so just go out there and do what you do.”

Where do the images come from for the Facebook feed?

“It was more of kind of a NASCAR come to me with an idea of a new way to try to broaden the horizon, and I’m like, yeah, let’s do it. It’s been stressful for sure. Cameras following you, around you all the time, capturing everything from ‑‑ the only time they haven’t followed me is when I go in the bathroom, that’s about it, and go to sleep. Everything else in between, they’re there to capture it. It’ll be a fun series to watch for sure.”

Is that something extra that you’ve got to deal with coming into your first Daytona 500 but you’ve got all this stuff going on in the background, also?

“Yeah, we went into it knowing that once race season is here and we got down to Daytona, we kind of laid the line down of, okay, I’m not doing anything extra to spice up the show if we don’t have what we have, then so be it. I’m not a TV star. I’m here to race cars. We’re capturing a little bit of content while we’re down here, which it’s going to turn out really good. I’ve already seen a couple of first episodes, so I’m really excited about it.”

Who do you think is going to be the next most popular driver now that Junior has retired?

“Hopefully me. Who said it yesterday, Gragson? A lot of vanilla people in the series. Not me. I’m the same person you’ve seen from 2013 to now. We’ll see. But ol’ Clyde, Clyde has probably got the biggest shot right now, but I’m trying to change that up.”

When you went up through the ranks, did you ever feel the sting of being a black man in a white sport?

“No, never have. Never have. Just one of those deals, I’m just a race car driver. I’ll whoop their ass any day.”

Are you concerned at all about concussion since it’s been an issue?

“No, I’ve got a pretty big head, so I’ve got a lot of cushion up there. I haven’t thought about that. You’re going to have your hits. Just hope and pray that you’re in safe hands each and every hit and you climb out, get evaluated, go back and race next week.”

Looking ahead to Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring, it’s an iconic track for RPM. How important is that weekend going to be to the 43?

“Yeah, I’m excited about it. I’m excited about every track on the schedule. The only one I haven’t been to is Sonoma, and I love that place just from racing it on video games. But going to Bristol, I think that’s everybody’s favorite track, right? To be able to go there and to be at the Cup level, 500 laps, it’s definitely one that you have to be prepared for. I think once we get through a couple of these races, like I said earlier, we’ll know what direction we’re kind of heading, so by the time we get to Bristol, it should be a pretty good event for us.”

What do you think Sonoma is going to be like doing a road course?

“Yeah, I’m excited about it. Road courses wore out ‑‑ when you think you’re saving tires until you’re sideways and not saving tires. Just going to have to be prepared for that, and looking forward to the challenge, though.”

What would you consider a good rookie season? Something that’s realistic, I don’t mean like 13 wins.

“Yeah, I know how hard it is to win in this sport. We obviously want to win, but we have to make sure we’re all in line, all of our stars are in line, and those good days we have to capitalize on. But as long as we come out of this gate competitive and proving each and every race like I did my first four starts, we’ll be good.”

What compelled you to put out that tweet in November, the first black man to do this, first black man to do that, enjoy the journey?

“It’s because of you guys. You guys are going to keep putting the black driver out there so I’m telling fans to embrace it because that’s all they’re going to keep hearing.”

Does this have any special meaning for you with black history month?

“Yeah, absolutely. I’m looking forward to it, to be able to represent the black culture. So it’s good.”

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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