Bubba Wallace talks mentoring Black aspiring race car drivers: ‘Don’t be afraid’

Wallace has taken on an advisory role with young African-American driver Rajah Caruth

Loading the player...

Bubba Wallace is keeping the door open for those coming behind him.

Read More: Teen Vogue staffers push back against new editor-in-chief

The NASCAR star recently spoke with People, opening up about being the only Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, overcoming discrimination, and supporting the next generation.

Wallace tells the publication that he has definitely faced racism in his field and that because of it, some have made assumptions about him.

NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 Columbia Sportswear Toyota, prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 on March 07, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“I’m pretty sure they don’t wanna hear it,” said the 27-year-old. “They already got their minds made up about me so it’s hard to convince them otherwise, you know? But [I would say], ‘You just can’t judge a book by its cover.’ “

He added, “Get to know somebody before you make your assumption about them. It takes me five seconds, but at least I gave them five seconds before I made my assumption about you. Some people are going off of, ‘It looks like he did this,’ or ‘It looks like he said this.’ Well, how about you find out about who he is as an actual human being, you know? I think that’s what it is. Let’s all do our due diligence.”

The driver spoke to the magazine as part of a collaborative effort with McDonald’s Black and Positively Golden Mentors Program.

“McDonald’s has been a huge part of my career over the last four or five years,” said Wallace. “They’ve stepped up in a huge way [with] sponsorship and funding on the race track and we’ve figured out how we can influence the next generation who are following my footsteps.”

Through the program, Wallace has taken on mentorship for young driver Rajah Caruth,18.

“With this Black and Positively Golden Mentors Program, I’ve been able to watch Rajah’s success, [which started] a handful of years ago. He’s having a lot of fun and I’m trying to give him words of wisdom and advice for on the track and off the track. It’s pretty special. I’m excited about this partnership and what we can do to influence not just Rajah, but anyone who wants to get inside motorsports and be a change maker.”

Rajah Caruth Image: courtesy McDonald’s Black and Positively Golden Mentorship Program

Wallace adds: “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s cool to see, ‘Hey, he’s listening, Rajah has progressed from his last race and this sport is all about patience. Winning does not happen right out of the gate. Success does not happen right out of the gate, so the more mentally tough you are, the better you’ll be in the long run because you’ll know, ‘Okay, we lost this game, we lost this battle, but we didn’t lose the war.’ “

Read More: McDonald’s sued by Black franchisee for racial discrimination

Caruth gushed over the opportunity to work with Wallace and is optimistic about his future.

“[His guidance] has not been only during this mentorship, it’s been since I started learning cars,” said Caruth. “Being a part of the McDonald’s Black and Positively Golden Mentorship Program has been great. [I’ve learned how] to be confident, avoid the negativity, ignore it and do [my] best.”

He tells the publication the vison he has for his own racing career:

Pioneer Hi-Bred 250-Practice
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., with his mother, Desi Wallace in 2012 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“My ultimate goal when I hang up the helmet, hopefully years down the line, [is that] my name will be mentioned with some of the greats of our sport,” he said. “That’s a long ways away. I know kinda like Bubba [has taught me], you just gotta trust the process. This [McDonald’s Black and Positively Golden] Mentorship Program is another step along the way and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Wallace’s career has not been a walk in the park. He made headlines back in June when a noose was found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage. After an investigation, it was discovered the noose had been there since at least October 2019.

At the time, NASCAR President Steve Phelps spoke out and said,

“The noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba.”

But instead of focusing on the past, Wallace who is now with Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s racing team, 23XI Racing is looking to the future and his legacy.

Read More: Alexi McCammond apologizes, will not step down as Teen Vogue EIC

“Hopefully, [when I retire] they see me as the guy who never gave up no matter what obstacle was in front, ” said the racer. “I’ve always tried to break through it and come out on top and be the better man.”

Wallace recently appeared on the I Am Athlete podcast, to talk about his career and his aspirations as a NASCAR driver. Watch the interview below: (Warning: mature themes)

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...