Wallace focused on positive mindset headed into Talladega

Apr 21, 2022, 8:58 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2022, 9:00 am
FILE - Driver Bubba Wallace, right, stands next to his vehicle with his fiancé Amanda Carter on pi...

FILE - Driver Bubba Wallace, right, stands next to his vehicle with his fiancé Amanda Carter on pit road before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace’s rain-shortened win at Talladega Superspeedway last October was a career breakthrough, but now Wallace wants more. He returns to Talladega for Sunday’s race as a legitimate threat, and Wallace does believe he can win. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Bubba Wallace still has the voice message Michael Jordan left him after Wallace’s first Cup Series victory. His winning Toyota is currently housed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame but will eventually be his to display.

Wallace’s rain-shortened win at Talladega Superspeedway last October was a career breakthrough and now Wallace wants more. He returns to Talladega for Sunday’s race as a legitimate threat, but the task facing 23XI Racing is contending at every track on the NASCAR schedule.

“The opportunity is so high to go out and win any race. There’s a lot more races than just Talladega and Daytona that we can look forward to,” Wallace said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have races that we look forward to throughout the year, and that’s different than years past. … Just showing up and knowing you have an opportunity automatically makes your mind shift tenfold.”

It’s been the kick in the firesuit that Wallace has needed in his fifth full season at NASCAR’s premier level. In three seasons driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace accumulated a meager three top-five finishes and 34 laps led over 108 races.

But his life changed in 2020 when Wallace, the only Black driver in the Cup Series, took a public stance on social and racial justice. His position was amplified as NASCAR was one of the only major sports competing in the early months of the pandemic and companies took notice: Wallace pulled in a variety of new-to-NASCAR sponsors in DoorDash, Columbia Sportswear and Dr. Pepper, and the funding helped three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin start a race team built around the driver.

Hamlin got Jordan to come aboard as co-owner, and 23XI Racing, despite expected growing pains in its first season, helped Wallace improve his statistics across the board. He equaled his career top-five finishes with three last season, led a career-high 62 laps and finished a career-best 21st in the standings.

23XI has since expanded to two cars and added former Cup champion Kurt Busch to its lineup, and, in the new Next Gen racecar, Wallace has been racy. He opened the season with a runner-up finish to Austin Cindric in the Daytona 500 and was in contention to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway until a late crash dropped him to 13th.

Wallace said his crash at Atlanta was the hardest hit of his life. It re-triggered soreness in the shoulder he had surgically repaired during the offseason, and it took about four days of rehabilitation until his entire body felt ready to race again.

But when he got back in his No. 23 Toyota, Wallace was ready to go.

It’s part of an intentional shift in attitude Wallace has made this year and applied every time he shows up at the track. Be it a tire test earlier this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, or a track where he’s typically struggled, Wallace’s intent is to be fully engaged with his race team.

“Since 2015, that’s when my career path shifted,” Wallace said of his move from two seasons driving winning trucks for Kyle Busch Motorsports to slugging along in the Xfinity Series for Jack Roush’s slumping team.

“It was just showing up and the work that you put in was good enough for 15th,” he added. “So it was like ‘Well, what’s the point of trying any harder?’ I feel like I’ve now broken that mold and now I’m like ‘Hey man, if you put in that extra work, it’s definitely going to pay off.’ I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it now and that’s the confidence-booster you need.”

His journey has been aided by his fiancé, Amanda, who by nature takes a more positive approach than Wallace generally does to the speedbumps in his path. She’s with him at nearly every race, was part of sponsor McDonald’s launch of a new line of racing-related streetwear alongside Wallace, and has been busy planning their New Year’s Eve wedding.

“I just sign the checks,” Wallace said, “but she’s still looking for a photographer.”

As calming as she’s been for Wallace as he’s taken the biggest step of his NASCAR career, the 28-year-old can’t bring himself to give Amanda all the credit.

“She should get a lot of it, but we’re competitive so I won’t give her 100% because, maybe she’s at 99% but she’s still got to work for that last little bit,” he laughed. “Sometimes she really (makes me mad) because I will be ranting about something ‘Can you believe this happened?’ and her response will be ‘Well, let’s look at why it happened this way.’

“She’s always seeing things in a different light and it makes you appreciate that you can see things differently from someone else’s perspective, you know? We’re definitely polar opposites but it balances out really well. Life’s good with her.”

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bump & Stacy Show

AP

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA ...
Associated Press

Griner’s Moscow trial resumes amid calls for US to seek deal

MOSCOW (AP) — Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returns to a Russian court on Thursday amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her release nearly five months after she was arrested on drug charges. Griner was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters with cannabis […]
1 day ago
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander delivers against the New York Mets during the firs...
Associated Press

LEADING OFF: Verlander, Gonsolin go for 11th; Cole at Fenway

A look at what’s happening around the majors today: ___ V IS FOR VICTORY Justin Verlander (10-3, 2.03 ERA) looks to become the first 11-game winner in the majors when Houston hosts the last-place Kansas City Royals in the afternoon finale of a four-game series. The 39-year-old ace, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, appears […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger, right, scores the winning run on a single by Mookie Betts as C...
Associated Press

Dodgers beat Rockies 2-1 on Betts’ infield single in 9th

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cody Bellinger scored the winning run on Mookie Betts’ infield single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the Colorado Rockies 2-1 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep. Dodgers starter Mitch White and three relievers combined to allow only one hit — […]
1 day ago
San Francisco Giants' Joey Bart hits an RBI double against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fift...
Associated Press

Giants erase early deficit, rally to beat Diamondbacks 7-5

PHOENIX (AP) — Austin Slater hit a tiebreaking bases-loaded double in the ninth inning and the San Francisco Giants rallied from an early four-run deficit, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-5 Wednesday night and snapping a six-game skid. The victory helped the Giants avoid a series sweep. The Diamondbacks, who were 2-17 against San Francisco last […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ionescu has triple-double, Liberty beat Aces 116-107

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu had 31 points in the highest-scoring triple-double in WNBA history and tied Candace Parker’s league record of three triple-doubles in the New York Liberty’s 116-107 victory over Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Ionescu also had 13 rebounds and 10 assists. She hit a career-high seven 3-pointers in eight tries […]
1 day ago
FILE - Sumo wrestler Takayuki Ichihara from Japan, left, fights against Keisho Shimoda from Japan, ...
Associated Press

Pandemic-delayed World Games open in Birmingham a year late

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Games open Thursday in Alabama featuring more than 3,600 athletes participating in non-Olympic events including sumo wrestling, gymnastics, pickleball, martial arts and tug of war. The opening ceremony, set for Thursday night at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, includes performances by Nelly […]
1 day ago
Wallace focused on positive mindset headed into Talladega