NASCAR: Bubba Wallace response draws praise, criticism

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Bubba Wallace shared an interesting response on Twitter when he learned that some NASCAR fans were booing Bill Lester at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway to kick off the weekend’s national series action, Bill Lester made his return to the sport behind the wheel of the #17 Ford for David Gilliland Racing.

Lester hadn’t competed in a NASCAR race since he competed in the Truck Series race at Nashville Superspeedway in August 2007.

The 60-year-old Washington, D.C. native’s long-awaited return to the sport was extra significant in that it came at the four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478-kilometer) oval in Hampton, Georgia.

Lester had made his first career Cup Series start at the track in March 2006 after qualifying for the race against long odds.

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His start in this race made him the first Black driver to compete in a race at NASCAR’s highest level in nearly two decades.

At that time, Willy T. Ribbs had been the most recent driver to do so when he competed at Michigan International Speedway in June 1986. Lester went on to compete at that track in June 2006 before failing to qualify for the race at Auto Club Speedway in September. Unfortunately for Lester, not everybody was thrilled with the idea of him returning to the sport, and several fans even booed him when he made his first appearance in nearly 14 years.

Nobody really knew why he was being booed, but he was being booed.

So Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver currently competing in the Cup Series, jumped to his defense. The 23XI Racing driver of the #23 Toyota posted the following message on Twitter in response to the hate.

Of course, like anything Wallace has said and/or done in the last year or so — or really like any social media opinion in general — that tweet drew responses ranging from extremely supportive to extremely critical. It means absolutely nothing from a NASCAR racing perspective, yet it garnered all kinds of attention.

Many questioned why he would make such a post to effectively stoke the flames while not actually solving anything, while others pointed to the fact that the real issue at hand was what Wallace was responding to and not his response itself.

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Some asked why he would make such a degrading statement about NASCAR’s fanbase, while others pointed out that he only referenced “some” and backed up his claims with screenshots of various derogatory messages.

Lester went on to finish the race in 36th place, seven laps off the lead lap, after starting in 31st.

Nevertheless, if anybody thought the off-the-track/non-racing-related controversy surrounding Wallace was going to stay in 2020, they were mistaken. Even before the 2021 season started, he addressed the fact that he knew it would never end.

"“It’s funny. I have a goal every year, to not be a part of the headlines. Every year I have that goal and I failed every year because there’s something that’s like, ‘Hey, I wanna, you know, not make any controversy.’ So something always happens whether it’s my doing or not, but it seems like it’s always my doing so. It’s tiring. … Go be a part of something where you’re the minority for 18 years and you learn how to handle it. So it’s just another day in the life of Bubba Wallace here, it’s all right. I’m good with it. It’s as simple as that.”"

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Through the first six races of the 2021 season, Wallace sits in 19th place in the point standings with top finishes of 16th at Phoenix Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.