Tonight, Bubba Wallace, NASCAR Cup Series’ lone black driver, will debut a custom stock car in Martinsville.
The car’s features include #BLACKLIVESMATTER printed over the rear tires, a custom drawn black hand and white hand clenched together, a peace sign made up of different hands, and the phrase “compassion, love, understanding” printed on the back bumper.
“With this statement that we have right here that we are about to make running this race car on live television,” Wallace told the car designer. “I think it’s going to speak volumes on what I stand for but also what the initiative the whole sport is trying to push.”
Wallace has been a leader in the sport trying to push for racial justice. He has encouraged conversations with other drivers and shared his story multiple times publicly.
“Black lives do matter. It’s not like we’re saying no other lives matter. We’re trying to say that black lives matter too,” he said as he released the car design online. “All lives will not matter until black lives matter.”
The car is just the latest statement the Alabama product has made on racial injustice.
On Sunday, Wallace wore an “I Can’t Breathe Black Lives Matter” T-shirt before his race. The next night, Wallace went on CNN to talk about his stance and the steps NASCAR can take to create a more inclusive fan experience.
He spoke about a black NASCAR official who knelt during the national anthem before the race. Wallace called the move “powerful” pointing out that the official is a veteran.
“People think that is disrespecting the flag and going against our military, it’s definitely not,” Wallace said of the peaceful protest.
Wallace and other NASCAR drivers have committed themselves to listen, learn, and create “real change” after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and “countless others.”
One of the first things NASCAR can do to create real change is banning confederate flags from races, said Wallace. “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with confederate flags, get them out of here. There’s no place for them.”
Wallace, who has been in the Cup Series for four years, admitted he grew accustomed to seeing Confederate flags at racing events.
“I wasn’t bothered by it,” he told Don Lemon. “What I am chasing is checkered flags. That was kinda my narrative.”
But the more he “educated” himself on the issue, the stronger he felt about removing the flags. “There’s going to be a lot of angry people who carry those flags proudly but it’s time for change. We have to change that and I encourage NASCAR to have those conversations.”
Yesterday, Sports Business Journal reporter Adam Stern wrote how NASCAR is actively considering a new policy on confederate flags at events.
NASCAR has never called for a total ban on the rebel flag. They have merely requested fans to stop bringing them to races. But in 2015, NASCAR set up a flag exchange program where fans could trade in their confederate flags for american flags.
Wallace will chase the checkered flag tonight in Martinsville, Va., in a car no one expected to see a few weeks ago. Regardless of where he finishes, he will, literally, drive his message of “compassion, love, and understanding” through the finish line.