Darrell “Bubba” Wallace may be enjoying success on the track, but it has not been without its difficulties. Bubba admitted as much during an emotional post-race press conference at the beginning of the 2018 NASCAR season. As the first African-American to have a full-time ride in over 40 years, Bubba has relied on his mother, Desiree, through the hard times.
As for the critics, Bubba has made it clear he is not going anywhere. After an internet troll claimed he was only getting an opportunity because of his skin color, Bubba used the moment as a way for other fans to embrace his story. Bubba has since made his response his pinned tweet.
“There is only 1 driver from an African American background at the top level of our sport..I am the 1. You’re not gonna stop hearing about ‘the black driver’ for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey,” Bubba tweeted.
According to Blavity.com, Desiree spent a good portion of her time with Bubba’s sister at AAU basketball tournaments, but she remained close with her son.
“By the time Bub got into racing when he was 9-years-old, my daughter was already established in basketball with AAU,” Desiree told Blavity.com. “While they were on the racetrack, she and I were traveling all over the United States with basketball.”
These days, Desiree can be found at the track as her son is the new driver for No. 43 car, and becoming one of the most popular NASCAR drivers in the sport.
Meet the woman who was with Bubba through all the trials, and who cannot stop smiling at her son’s success on the track.
1. As a Kid, Bubba Told His Mom “You Can’t Be Afraid to Go Fast”
When Bubba just started racing, Desiree was a typical mother, who worried about the dangers of the sport. According to Bleacher Report, Desiree witnessed another go-kart spin out during her first time watching her son race. She wondered if Bubba ever worried if the same thing would happen to him.
“After that race, I asked Bubba if he was afraid to go fast,” Desiree told Bleacher Report. “And he just looked at me and said, ‘Mom, you can’t be afraid to go fast. You have to have no fear.’ And that’s when I knew that Bubba had a chance to go far in racing. He was just fearless out there and really aggressive.”
2. After Her Son’s Daytona 500 Debut, Desiree Said Bubba Is “Here to Stay”
Bubba’s Daytona 500 debut in the No. 43 car was extra special given his extended family was in attendance, including his mother and sister. After the race, the family shared a moment causing Bubba to be visibly emotional during his post-race press conference.
Desiree spoke with the Charlotte Observer about what it meant for her son to be a driver on the biggest NASCAR stage.
“There’s just been a long, hard-fought road for him,” Desiree told the Charlotte Observer. “A lot of people saying he doesn’t belong here. I just think that tonight, he proved that he did. He belongs here. And he’s here to stay.”
3. Bubba Gave an Emotional “Thank You” to His Family After Finishing 2nd at the 2018 Daytona 500
Bubba may have come in second at the 2018 Daytona 500, but he stole the show after the race with his vulnerability. Moments after embracing his family, Bubba headed to the podium, and gave a heart-felt look at some of the obstacles he has overcome to be one of the new faces of NASCAR. The Charlotte Observer captured Bubba’s emotional comments.
It’s a sensitive subject, but I’m just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years, and I don’t talk about it, but it’s just so hard. I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud. Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day…It’s just all about adversity, and looking at the stuff you’ve gone through, it’s motivation. Never quit.
4. Bubba Had Never Heard the N-Word Before He Got Into Racing
For all the progress auto racing has made, Bubba has faced his share of criticism, and his mother explained her son was introduced to some of the nastiness of racism when he got into racing. According to Bleacher Report, he first heard the N-word when he started racing.
“Bubba had never heard that word until he got into racing,” Desiree told Bleacher Report. “I told him what it meant, and that there will be people who will be against him just because of his skin color. But I emphasized that he needed to prove he belonged by getting out there and kicking some butt. I’ve told him repeatedly that he’s going to have to outwork everyone else because this is a white man’s sport. I never sugarcoated anything to Bubba.”
Bubba noted the worst incidents happened in his early racing years, and he has gained a lot of support from NASCAR fans.
“I’ve never had any issues with racism or racist people at the track for as long as I’ve been racing in NASCAR,” Bubba told Bleacher Report. “All of that stuff that has happened to my face took place when I was coming up. And a lot of what I get now on social media is 13- and 14-year-old kids just trying to act tough. Well, I’ll call them out. I’ll confront them and tell them that they messed with the wrong person.”
5. Desiree Told Bubba It’s His Purpose to Diversify the Racing Stands
According to The Undefeated, Desiree used a win at Richmond, Virginia as a teachable moment for her son. It was a race in Bubba’s early days, far away from the NASCAR spotlight he enjoys today. Desiree pointed to the stands as African-Americans were cleaning up the trash after the race was over. The Undefeated detailed the story.
I said, ‘You see all these black people? What are they doing?’ she recalls of Richmond.
‘Cleaning up the trash,’ he told her.
Exactly…You should have a problem with that. They don’t even know about racing. They don’t even know there’s a black kid in this race. The sad part, she says, is the track is next to a black community. The stands should’ve been full of people of color. It was like a reality check for him. I said, ‘This is your purpose, to change that. One day, you will.’