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Bubba Brings Personality Back To The Cup Cockpit

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 14 2019
Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace, driving for the legendary Richard Petty, is a wheelman and a words man. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The thought at mid afternoon on Wednesday was the same as it has been on many of the past media day afternoons prior to the Daytona 500: Blow through the driver transcripts and publish the best quotes.

That task seems to be getting tougher every February.

Maybe it’s because the same questions are being asked every year and the same answers are being doled out.

Maybe it’s because drivers are becoming duller, more savvy in terms of public relations, less eager to offend anybody, younger and less comfortable with the media or, even, fearful of the reactions of sponsors and NASCAR officials.

Maybe it’s because the author of these pieces is becoming more and more jaded.

Whatever. Getting through the transcripts was a slog this year.

Then the sun poked through the roiling gray mid-winter clouds. Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace had stepped right up the the microphone.

It’s tough to tell just how good of a stock car driver Wallace is as in this era, success depends on speed which depends on good equipment which depends on cubic dollars.

Perhaps Wallace’s finest moment in the Cup Series was finishing second in the 500 a year ago. His best series has been in Trucks where he won six races in 46 starts.

But, like him or not like him, you’ve got to admit he is a world class quote.

The following are some of his best quotes from Wednesday’s media day in Daytona:

Question: WAS LAST YEAR’S FINISH IN THE 500 ONE THAT GOT AWAY OR WAS IT JUST SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU EXPECTED THAT YOU WERE JUST HAPPY TO FINISH THERE AND HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING BACK NOW?

Wallace: “Hopefully, just as lucky as I was Sunday night last year. No, I think we did more than enough last year. Coming into the season last year we were like there is no way in hell that we would finish second in my first Daytona 500 attempt. I thought I would go out there and cause ‘the big one’. You try your hardest not to, but it’s there. So, to be able to do that and to be able to come out almost on top pushing the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) to Victory Lane was pretty cool, pretty special. A lot of people hyped this story up as coming back as ‘oh you are going to do it again’. It’s like, let’s pump the brakes, let’s get through the rest of the week and let’s make it to lap 199, let’s stop and have a break and do an interview on that last lap and see if we have a shot. If I make it to 199, hell yeah, I’m going to go for it.”

ON THE NEW RULES PACKAGE:

“We will find out. We did the test out in Vegas. It was different. It was honestly more than I expected in a more positive way. I was kind of making my educated guess off the All-Star package of last year and it really took the way the superior feel of the Cup level, so jumping in first lap hauling ass down into (Turn) 3 I was like, ‘Whoa, this has a lot of speed still and the same amount of speed through the center of the corner’.  So, still have to man-handle it a little bit. In traffic you are still kind of fighting the dirty air stuff… we will get a test of it again at Atlanta coming up here in two weeks and then Vegas will be the eye-opener for all of us.”

HOW HAS RPM ELEVATED THEIR PROGRAM FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR?

“We will find out as well.  We haven’t even got a race under our belt yet, so we have had some personnel changes, people moved around and moved up and so excited about that.

IN REGARDS TO THE DIFFICULTY OF SPONSORSHIP:

“It’s been 16 years of it.”

DO YOU HAVE A FEELING WHY IT’S SO HARD?

“I wish I could tell you the perfect answer for that. I’m as baffled as a lot of people are in this room, but you just have to go out and try harder.”

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO CARRY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PROMOTING THE SPORT?

“Yeah, it’s a lot but it’s all part of it. You look at it in the end, who does it reach, who does it touch? Al Roker, we did a piece in Garden and Gun magazine I think that was throughout the off season or maybe late in the season last year and he said he picked up the magazine, never heard of me before and seen that and he was like I want to do an interview. He set all that up just by reading something. You’ve got to look at all the things you do it’s reaching out to somebody special, it’s a matter of if they act on it or not, so we will see.”

WHAT WAS THE BIG TAKEAWAY FROM LAST YEAR’S 500 OUTSIDE THE FINISH?

“Obviously, the media center was the highlight. Shed a little tear for TV ratings trying to get those up, that was all part of the plan. It worked out, hell, I got a lot of people on my side over that. Got to pump up the waterworks again this year. Other than that, it was just taking in the first race as a rookie and to be able to accomplish it the way we did was pretty cool.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED HOW MUCH YOUR TEAM STRUGGLED AT TIMES LAST YEAR?

“I was surprised how much I struggled and let myself struggle. Yeah, absolutely, it was my rookie year, you know, went through it all. I’m not using that as an excuse because I have enough experience to know that some of the mistakes, I made could have been fixable, could have been preventable I should say. But, it’s all part of it. You go through it all. You go through the emotions. I get in this mindset of when we are down, I can pick us back up. I’ve got it, let me do it and then you end up putting yourselves in rough spots.”

IN REGARDS TO OTHER DRIVERS TELLING ROOKIES HOW HARD THE CUP SERIES IS:

“I haven’t really talked to them about it. I have talked to (Kevin) Harvick a lot of years leading up to this. He has kind of been in my corner now with a year under my belt racing against him, not sure if he is still in my corner, may have pissed him off at one time, I’m not sure. But he has been a huge help. I know that is kind of his tendency for a lot of the younger guys coming through to just stay out of his way I think he says.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KEYS ARE FOR NASCAR TO GET MORE FANS AND KEEP FANS?

“Just fulfilling out the requests. It’s one thing to just ‘yeah I’ll do this just because’ or it’s another thing to ‘yeah I’m going to do it to help grow our sport and be a part of it.’ So, you’ve got to be on the same message when you get a lot of these requests that are sometimes optional, sometimes mandatory, but I love interacting with fans. I love meeting new people and seeing the interest for our sport grow. It makes you feel good when you have kids running up to you wanting your autograph talking about, I want to be like you. Some drivers don’t see that. They tend to walk the other way, but for me, I embrace it all and it’s all part of it. You are on this pedestal sometimes not in the best ways. I don’t like being on the pedestal, but you’re an athlete it automatically calls for that so you’ve got to live up to the expectations.”

ON WORKING WITH PEOPLE IN THE DRAFT:

“You pick out who you can work with and who you can’t. My car is not very good behind X. My car is pretty good behind X, you know it’s like that or you just don’t like the guy and you are not going to work with them. I guess I had something written on my back bumper at all plate races last year that offended everybody. I would be riding by myself and everybody would just leave me hanging. I’m like okay whatever. So, it’s all a matter of if you can work with that guy. If your car can work with that guy. If not, sorry I’m going to try to find my own way because at the end of the day it’s all about yourself, looking out for yourself and it just so happened that the No. 43 and No. 3 were 1-2.”

 WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR NASCAR TO RETURN TO THE NASHVILLE FAIRGROUNDS?

“It would be badass to go there. I don’t know if you ever had the chance to race there, but it’s an incredible facility, old school, wore out. I think all the drivers are on board with it and so let’s make it happen.”
WHAT COULD THEY DO DIFFERENTLY THAT ROCKINGHAM DID NOT DO?

“I think there is still maybe a little sliver of hope for that place. That place was badass as well. But it’s been… I was 14/15 when I ran at Nashville, but grew up racing Bandoleros against (Ryan) Blaney and a lot of us out here. So, I think just getting back to that old school feel. We got to a lot of these places… the old school feel we have now is probably Darlington, Martinsville maybe, Bristol, that feel like truly old school, but you go to Nashville and it’s like ‘man this is what it was like’. So, we will see.”

DID YOU NOTICE ANY DIFFERENCE IN CHASE ELLIOTT AFTER HE GOT HIS FIRST WIN LAST YEAR?

“We have to go through multiple people to contact him now. He has become super big-time. I have to get permission to go inside of my bus which is right next to his bus, so he owns like the whole area now. Man, I’m knocking on the door for our first win and things are going to really spice up. We might not be friends after that because I’m going to have a lot of rules in place as well. No, Chase knows how to get it done. He is an incredible talent. We have raced together ever since his ugliest legend car days. He had the worst looking car out there, but he was always a hot shoe. It’s cool to see your buddies be successful. It stings a little bit. Obviously, you wish it was you, but it adds more fuel to the fire to go out and get the job done as well. I didn’t see much of a chance besides his head getting bigger. That is alright, we always do.”

YOU’VE GOT A LOT OF THINGS THAT COULD BE TROUBLING TO A DRIVER, BUT YOU ALWAYS SEEM SO UPBEAT WHY IS THAT?

“Personality. A lot of people will portray it as me being cocky and arrogant. I’m just living life. I’m having fun. At the end of the day I get paid to drive race cars. At the end of the day I just get to drive, nothing else. Everything else comes with it. You’ve got to learn how to do all this other stuff. You’ve got to be prepared to drive when you get to the Cup level and so knowing, okay we’ve got a new crew chief, that is not going to change the way I drive. We have different partners, different sponsors on the car, not going to change the way I drive, not going to change the way I interact with the media. For me, I’m just going to be me and have fun. A lot of people get very buttoned up and oh it’s media day, hell I’m ready for this thing to be over with and go have some fun. Go out and have a drink or something. Share a Coke with everybody.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 14 2019
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