Darrell Wallace Jr AKA Bubba, is the current stand-in driver for Aric Almirola–who’s taking some time out to recover from an injury. After making his debut in the legendary No. 43 car on Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Bubba passed out on pit road after his post-race interview.
Having been picked from the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series, Bubba made his first ever cup start at the weekend. He was the first black driver to make a cup start in over a decade, and he did so in the former car number that belonged to Richard Petty… So no pressure or anything then.
The race was tough going. He’d qualified 16th and was running a good race, until matter arose on pit road. There was a suspected issue with the Tachometer–something that isn’t used in the Xfinity Series–which saw Bubba receive speeding penalties three times throughout the race. The penalties then resulted in him going a lap down and affecting his final position of 26th.
Speaking about this in a post-race conference, Bubba said:
“It’s a heck of a way to start my weekend and heck of a way to end my weekend, passing out. I’m patting myself on the back for that… It’s happened three times now where I’m very hard on myself and I’m super pissed off at myself, and I’m just so mad I just pass out.”
He insisted that it wasn’t due to dehydration or another health issue. In fact, following his release from the Infield Care Centre, he managed to congratulate best friend Blaney on his first ever career Cup Win on Victory road. The pair then had an iconic photo with the Hall of Famer himself: Richard Petty. When asked about Blaney’s victory, he said:
“Hats off to everybody on the 21 team. I’m so pumped for him. … super pumped for him, his family. We grew up together, so they’re all family, and it’s really cool to be best friends with him, and to see him get it on this special day for the sport after that picture we took (Sunday) morning, all the stars were aligned for him.”
However, we have to ask whether NASCAR ought to do more to ensure that drivers are safe and fit to drive – especially if they have a history of these sorts of issues. Bubba was lucky he was out of the car and surrounded by people. The outcome could have been much different if it was out on the track. Drivers medical conditions aren’t always a mystery. For example, Ryan Reed who runs in the Xfinity Series was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Perhaps more thorough health checks could be conducted by NASCAR to determine the safety and competence of a driver based on his or her current physical state, whilst also still giving driver the power to make their own decision. It’s a tough call.
Bubba went on to say:
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid, being in the Cup Series, and now it’s here, and I made a name for myself. I thought I ran a pretty decent race, just kind of running there by myself, passed a couple people, tried not to make anybody too mad, and hopefully earned a lot of respect from those guys out there. I definitely had a blast. At the same time, I was a little frustrated.”
Bubba seemed to perk up shortly after his pit road blackout and join in the celebration festivities. The important thing though is: How can NASCAR prevent it from happening a fourth time and ensure the safety of the drivers?
Bubba left on this note:
“This is a first step. I know we ran a good, clean race, and that’s all you can ask. I didn’t wreck the car, brought it home in one piece, so I’m pumped for the guys.”