For the first time since 2006, an African America will race in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race when Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr climbs into the #43 for the Pocono 400. His first ever Cup Series start.
Yes, this will be a HUGE story because the color of his skin, but don't get it twisted, he has earned this shot to drive the iconic car for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Wallace started in the K&N East Series in 2010 and won 6 times.
He moved to the truck series in 2013 and won in Martinsville the same year. The next season, he would win 4 more times.
He is currently 4th in points in the XFinity Series and just this past weekend in Dover won a stage in the One Main Financial 200. He only has 2 DNF (did not finish) in 11 races this season which means he is taking care of his equipment.
So, Bubba has done it on the track.
Wallace also is a graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity which has also produced Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, both of which are now full time Cup Series drivers and doing quite well.
Bubba's success has helped him gain respect in the garage, but what about the fans?
The fun he and fellow driver Ryan Blaney have on social media has shown his personality. He currently has over 91 thousand followers on Twitter of many races and nationalities.
So while most will focus on his skin color, this is the chance for the sport to infuse some new personality into the mix at the top level and boy do they need it.
I'm not going to beat around the bush, to have an African American on racing's highest series would be outstanding. With TV ratings down and attendance slumping, new eyeballs glued to the TV and a new demographic possibly buying tickets could do nothing but help this sport. If Bubba can show well in the 43 Ford, this would be HUGE for NASCAR.
With Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr all retiring in back to back to back years, NASCAR is still looking for its future stars. Wallace could be bursting on the scene at the very right time. But, he has to show well on the track.
This season has seen youngsters like Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon win. While the likes of Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, and Daniel Suarez have shown they can handle themselves well on the track and are threats to make the playoffs.
Is it time to add the 23 year old Wallace to the list?
I certainly hope so.
Every off season, seats come open in NASCAR and this off season will be the same as we already know the #88 will have a new driver in 2018 with the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr. As cars get filled and vacated, Wallace could find himself in a Cup series car full time in '18 if he shows well with this try out.
Wallace will drive the #43 until Aric Almirola (another graduate of the Drive for Diversity) recovers from his back injury. Aric is out indefinitely so there is no time table on his return.
All anyone asks for in life is a chance. A shot to prove what they can do. For Wallace, this is the chance of a lifetime.
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