Darrell “Bubba” Wallace’s parents, Desiree and Darrell Sr., have seen their son’s historic rise to become a NASCAR driver. Bubba credits his family for pushing him through hard times. After finishing second at the 2018 Daytona 500, Bubba was overcome with emotion during his post-race press conference after seeing his mother and sister, Brittany, in the audience. Bubba cited his family as a big reason he has been able to succeed.
“It’s a sensitive subject,” Bubba said, per Yahoo Sports. “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, and so having them here to support me is … 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. But yeah, I just love my family and having everybody here from my mom, my sister, my uncle. Everybody here just means a lot.”
Bubba’s dad, Darrell Sr., is white, while his mom, Desiree, is African-American. Bubba’s parents divorced when he was younger, but he remains close to both of them. He made history in 2018 by becoming the first African-American driver to have a full-time NASCAR ride since 1971. Desiree believes her son is just the right person to help grow the sport.
“Bub has a solid foundation,” Desiree explained to Blavity.com. “He is going to work hard, stay focused, and continue to prove himself. In doing that, hopefully, he can inspire other minorities who are interested in NASCAR.”
1. Bubba’s Dad, Darrell Sr., Was His First Sponsor
One of the keys to making it in the early years of racing is having a supportive title sponsor. Bubba’s father, Darrell Sr., was his first sponsor when he was trying to climb his way up the racing ranks.
“I was lucky that my dad was able to sponsor me during my early years of competition,” Bubba explained to Vegas to You. “I got started when I was nine racing in Go-Karts, Bandolero, and the Legends series, as well as local late model events. Even with a winning season, and moving up to the modified K&N East series, it still takes sponsorships. I was constantly on the phone. It takes persistence to get sponsorships,”
2. Bubba’s Mom, Desiree, Was Reluctant For Her Son to Become a NASCAR Driver
Even though Desiree watched auto racing, she was reluctant for her son to become a full-time driver. The lack of other minority drivers combined with the danger associated with the sport made it hard for her to watch her son on the track.
“It’s not that I didn’t like the sport,” Desiree noted to Blavity.com. “Being in an interracial marriage all those years, I grew up watching NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt Sr., was our favorite driver before he passed, and my brother-in-law was a driver in Nashville, Tennessee so I went to a couple of races and I knew a little bit about it. But, I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted for Bubba…At the end of the day, Bub was committed to it. So here we are.”
3. Bubba’s Father Is Concerned for His Son’s Safety
Bubba has been outspoken about his desire to keep diversifying the NASCAR fan base and played a key role in the decision to ban the confederate flag from events. Not everyone is pleased with Bubba’s stance, and Darrell Sr. told his son that he is concerned for his safety.
“Just crazy you have to think about that side of things,” Bubba told Fox News.
Darrell Sr. is also concerned about the pressure Bubba has been under in recent weeks. Bubba has become a major public figure after debuting a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on the track and NASCAR’s investigation into a noose found in his Talladega garage stall was national news.
“I just see how it’s weighing down on him and wearing him out,” Darrell Sr. told CBS News. “He’s having sleepless nights. I’m worried about him.”
The family has deep ties to the sport, and Bubba grew up loving NASCAR. Bubba’s parents were big Dale Earnhardt fans, so he grew up rooting for the No. 3 car. Bubba reflected on his history with NASCAR in an interview with Garden & Gun magazine.
“Dale [Earnhardt] for sure,” Bubba told Garden & Gun. “He was my mom and dad’s favorite. I remember racing in Bandoleros and Legend cars when I was ten or eleven years old; we would race at Pole Night, Thursday night, over at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the [Coca-Cola] 600, and all the Cup teams would be there. You’d go race and we’d put on a show, and we’d win a couple of those races and it would be, Wow, we’re doing this in front of all these people. I still didn’t have any dreams of ‘I want to be at the Cup level one day.’ We just did it because we were having fun.”
4. Bubba’s Father Introduced His Son to the Sport of Auto Racing
Bubba’s father was the one who initially came up with the idea of his son trying to race cars. As his sister was playing basketball, Desiree credits her ex-husband for getting their son involved in the sport.
“By the time Bub got into racing when he was 9-years-old, my daughter was already established in basketball with AAU,” Desiree noted to Blavity. “While they were on the racetrack, she and I were traveling all over the United States with basketball.”
Bubba’s parents divorced when he was younger and the driver admitted the family has had their own hardships just like any other.
“We’re getting there from personal issues and family struggles that I can’t say everybody goes through, but when you go through it, it’s tough,” Bubba said, per Yahoo Sports. “But we’re all making bigger steps to be in the right direction there as well. It’s good for sure.”
5. Bubba Has Embraced the Idea of Growing the NASCAR Fan Base
Back in 2017, Bubba tweeted a response to the criticism he received from some fans tired of hearing about his race. Rather than growing frustrated, Bubba has embraced his role as one of the few African-Americans on the track.
“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.
Since then, Bubba has elaborated on his desire to grow the sport and expand the fan base to a more diverse audience.
“That’s a goal of mine and the sport,” Bubba noted to Garden & Gun. “To become more diverse and change the demographic, bring in a new face. You know, it helps having an African American driver behind the wheel. I’m representing that culture and that background. But a lot of background pressure, I don’t really put that on me. I know I have enough pressure to go out and perform every week. And let the result speak for itself. You’re starting to see a little more diverse crowd every weekend, maybe one or two people more. It’ll take some time.”