Column: Wallace deserves a slot in NASCAR's All-Star race




  • In Sports
  • 2020-07-13 20:34:14Z
  • By JENNA FRYER (AP Auto Racing Writer)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Bubba Wallace deserves a spot in NASCAR's All-Star race, a $1 million exhibition designed for race winners and previous champions of the event.

Wallace doesn't qualify under those conditions, though he has four chances to make the 20-driver field Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. There are 22 drivers entered in the "open" event in which the winners of each of the three stages earn an automatic berth into the show.

The fourth slot goes to the winner of a fan vote and

when results were last updated a week ago.

Tuesday.

Plenty will argue that an all-star race is for the very best in the sport and Wallace needs to earn his way in on the racetrack. He and his Richard Petty Motorsports team will certainly try that route but the competition is steep: Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - all previous race winners driving for larger teams than RPM - are among those Wallace must beat for an automatic berth.

That doesn't mean Wallace doesn't have a chance to race his way into the main event, which he did last year. Overlooked in a season in which he has dominated off-track news, Wallace and the No. 43 team have been much improved.

Through 17 races, Wallace has already equaled his career best with three top-10 finishes. He is 19th in the Cup Series standings, only 60 points outside the bubble to qualify for the playoffs.

Those stats are not that impressive. But it is important to recognize RPM is a single-car team lacking the heavy sponsorship money required to compete with NASCAR's elite organizations. An alliance with Richard Childress Racing helps, but the finances are not there for Wallace to contend for wins each week.

Money equals speed in racing, whether its new parts, more people or the ability to spend time on research and development. RPM gets by with what it can afford and recognizes its shortcomings. Wallace had a decent run at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May but contact caused him to break a wheel hub.

When the team told him what the issue was over the radio, a despondent Wallace replied he wasn't going to stay on the track when the team can't even afford new wheel hubs. "Bring it to the garage," he was told.

So apply perspective to Wallace's results. His ninth-place finish two weekends ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was better than former champions Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and former Brickyard winner Ryan Newman. And for an RPM team that hasn't won a race since 2012 with Marcos Ambrose, a top-10 finish at Indy is pretty close to a moral and emotional victory.

Statistics aside, the strain Wallace and his team have been under the last two months is enormous. Wallace is the only Black driver at NASCAR's top level and for that reason alone he has been forced to speak out as the country is pushing for racial equality.

He has been at the forefront of NASCAR's racial reckoning and became the face of the movement when he successfully called on series leadership to ban the Confederate flag at NASCAR events. What followed has been a blinding spotlight.

The 26-year-old Wallace has tried to navigate his new role as a spokesman, a leader - a position he never before had as a mid-pack racer - and soon enough he was receiving death threats, scorn and mockery from the public. When NASCAR said a noose had been in Wallace's garage stall at Alabama's Talladega Superspeedway, the intensity only escalated when federal authorities determined the noose had been hanging in the garage stall since last October and thus Wallace could not have been the target of a hate crime.

Although Wallace never saw the noose, never reported it and learned of it from NASCAR, conspiracy theorists have been in full attack mode. President Donald Trump

competitors an apology, wrongly stating it had been a hoax, and

Jussie Smollett.

The pressure has been enormous on Wallace, who somehow has weathered it all with grace while presenting himself as a strong representative of NASCAR. His performance has not suffered and his team has not given up on its driver or its quest to improve.

That alone makes Wallace a worthy candidate for the All-Star race, whether he earns his way in on the track or the fans - existing ones or the new ones drawn to the sport specifically by Wallace - make him the popular choice.

COMMENTS

More Related News

NASCAR automakers to battle this weekend for Michigan Heritage Trophy
NASCAR automakers to battle this weekend for Michigan Heritage Trophy

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The competition has always been fierce in the NASCAR Cup Series among drivers, teams and even the three manufacturers (OEM) -- Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota. When that stage shifts to the OEMs' backyard, the stakes become even greater. Such is the case again this year, when, for just the second time in […]

Martin Truex Jr. rallies back from penalty to finish third at New Hampshire
Martin Truex Jr. rallies back from penalty to finish third at New Hampshire

Expectations matched reality Sunday for Martin Truex Jr. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got exactly what he predicted out of his No. 19 Toyota at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Truex finished third in the NASCAR Cup Series' race in Loudon, New Hampshire. Brad Keselowski won, while Denny Hamlin was the runner-up. Joey Logano was then […]

Brad Keselowski cruises to New Hampshire Cup win
Brad Keselowski cruises to New Hampshire Cup win

Brad Keselowski emerged victorious Sunday at New Hampshire in what for the most part appeared to be a one-on-one battle with Denny Hamlin.

Brad Keselowski wins NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire
Brad Keselowski wins NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire

With two wins in his pocket heading into Sunday's Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski was already in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, but it was this third win of 2020 that came in the sort of dominating style the championship contender hoped would show his team's readiness to challenge […]

NASCAR on TV schedule: Aug. 3-9, 2020
NASCAR on TV schedule: Aug. 3-9, 2020

Which channels have NASCAR programming this week? We answer that and give the weekly NASCAR television listings here in the NASCAR TV schedule. Note: All times are ET. MORE: How to find NBCSN | Get the NBC Sports App | How to find FS1 | Get FOX Sports App RELATED: How to follow races on NASCAR.com […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Sports