Richard Petty's latest hire wants to focus on racing, not race


Richard Petty has already said what most fans have been saying about Darrell 'Bubba' Wallace Jr. since before he finally got a full time ride in the Cup Series driving the legendary number 43 car.

Petty told reporters that he doesn't care about the color of Wallace's skin. He only cares about talent.

On Wallace being African American, Petty said, "That was the least of my considerations. We looked at the talent. We looked at how we thought he handled the fans, how he handled the press, how he handled sponsor deals, all this kind of stuff. I didn't care what color he was, where he come from, any of that."

In Bleacher Report's excellent feature, Wallace's mother details the nasty treatment he faced when he first got into racing. Wallace himself, though, notes that he no longer is treated that way at the highest level of the sport.

"I've never had any issues with racism or racist people at the track for as long as I've been racing in NASCAR." At least to his face, he says, as he notes that people are still emboldened to be terrible online.

Still, being the sports first African American driver since 1971 brings unique challenges. Such as being asked about his new boss's comments on national anthem protests long after it has faded from other drivers' radar.

Related: NASCAR fans will stand and cheer when they hear what The King has to say about anthem protests

"I would never do that," Wallace says about protesting the anthem. "I've stood for the national anthem ever since grade school. It's a patriotic thing for me. I understand what Colin Kaepernick and others are doing, but it's not for me. The most important thing to me is just doing my job as a race car driver. That's it."

Focusing on doing his job is a great attitude to have, and by all accounts, he is going to be great at it.

In addition to The King's endorsement, Wallace has fellow cup driver Ryan Blaney's attention. Blaney has raced with Wallace since they were young, and said his ability to get the most out of a car is his best attribute.

"What makes Darrell so good is that he always gets the most out of his car and makes really good decisions on the track," Blaney said. "He overachieves with his equipment, and that's really the best thing a driver can do."

His mother knew from the first race she attended that 'Bubba' had a future in racing. After witnessing a rough Karting crash, his mother asked if he was scared of going fast. Wallace's response sums up exactly what the young racer is made of: "Mom, you can't be afraid to go fast. You have to have no fear."