Bubba Wallace on Netflix Series, Mental Health and 23XI Improvements

Bubba Wallace is no stranger to pressure.

The 27-year-old has embraced the expectation and intensity associated with his journey over the past 12 months. As if it wasn’t challenging enough to be the only Black driver across all three national tours, and one that has previously won under the microscope of scrutiny, Wallace has also been a lightning rod for change during his tenure at the highest level of the discipline.

Wallace has advocated for social change, diversity and inclusion within NASCAR to great success.

Simultaneously, he has embraced additional pressure in joining a new team launched by Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan. Together, they have called Wallace the right driver for the right time, inviting more partners and supporters.

It’s also made Bubba Wallace one of the most recognizable brands in sports. More pressure.

Wallace has made no secret that he has battled depression at various points in his life, even this season while trying to lead a upstart team with access to the best resources in the sport. The new team, with its championship level aspirations has meant more sponsorship activation and commitments, and a whirlwind life for Wallace in his first season at 23XI.

That campaign will be documented and spotlighted on Netflix, with camera crews documenting the entire journey from concept to execution at 23XI, and Wallace took time to field questions on all of these topics.

There’s also the matter of his ‘Zero to Hero’ moment in the Golf Guys Tour, a group of NASCAR industry guys who play golf together, and a league Wallace got kicked out of several years ago when he ran afoul of Hamlin.

That complete conversation can be found below.

MW: We’ll get the business out of the way first, all the different variations these days, what is your favorite flavor of Dr. Pepper?

BW: I’m natural. I just go straight up. No, I’m excited for the Zero Sugar, for sure. It (was) on the car, but right off the shelf, natural, the organic, the original 23 flavors. That’s me.

MW: The reason I ask is that when I was a kid, my grandmother was diabetic, and all she drank was Diet Dr. Pepper. So, naturally, all I drank was Diet Dr. Pepper and I always appreciated that I thought it tasted close to the real deal. And Dr. Pepper makes me think of her, and we lost her about 10 years ago, so that’s always nice to do.

BW: Love to hear that.

MW: In the past month, we’ve learned that you’ll have a camera crew running with you for a documentary on your first season at 23XI Racing. Have they started filming that? What has that whole process been like for you so far?

BW: It’s been a lot of fun. Yeah, we’ve been filming since January, I would say. It was actually my idea. I wanted to give my fans an inside look. I went to my management team to see how we could make it happen. I felt this would be a perfect documentary to show everything it takes to be successful at the top level of NASCAR. Knowing this was a new opportunity for me, starting a new team, why not have all of that on film?

MW: You’ve had decent speed, but have broke a couple of times, and had some strategy not go your way, track position stuff too. How do you feel like you guys stack up for a brand-new team?

BW: I’m excited and proud of everybody’s efforts. I mean, hell this thing came about, you know, two months before the season started. So, to see where we’re at right now is really big. Knowing the potential that we have, knowing that the progression rate, I’m excited for the future. I’m excited for every race that’s on the schedule. Every week, with the new schedule is such an unknown, in a positive way. Like, man, this could be the weekend that it really comes together. It’s exciting to go into every weekend having that mindset. If everything is clicking, if all the eggs are in one basket, we can go and get it done. So, yeah, everybody at 23XI is doing an amazing job with what we have in front of us to keep it going.

MW: You said during the pre-season that two wins was a realistic goal. This season had a lot more parity than we expected so do you think that’s still a realistic mark?

BW: I mean, that would be a start for sure. You know, that’s still a personal goal for me. I’m still going at it. It was big to get a stage win because that brings confidence levels up and gets you excited. We’re still seeing what we can do, trying not to get ahead of ourselves, not cause our problems out on the race track, taking what the car will give us, take what the weekend will give us, race our own race, and continue to build that database.

MW: How is your 550 Package program this season, because there’s a lot of them this summer once we get through this stretch.

BW: I felt really solid at Homestead and we’ve spent a lot of time on the sim these last couple of weeks. Toyota has a good reputation on these tracks so it’s going to be important to do my homework, my due diligence, and making sure that when I take the green flag that I am well prepared as anybody else there.

Put yourself in my shoes or anybody’s other than your self for once ha.. imagine coming out about depression and still dealing with it on occasion bc oh by the way it’s very real and doesn’t care who you are…

MW: You’ve had no reservations about putting yourself out there when it’s something that’s important to you. You said something recently that caught my attention about mental health. You said you don’t owe anyone anything, and I totally respect that. You’re right. But I’m curious: Do you feel like there’s a better opportunity, between yourself, Cody Ware, to make people better understand that we’re all going through stuff and that we can’t be expected to be on it in public at every moment?

BW: For sure. There’s a stigma that, if you’re on TV, are an athlete or celebrity, that you don’t have problems. That’s not true. I’m trying to erase that stigma because, I continue to say it, depression doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care how much money you make. It doesn’t care what you look like. It doesn’t care. You know? It doesn’t care what kind of car you drive, or if it’s a race car, because it’s real and will attack you. There are days you feel like you’re good, and the next day it’s a slap in the face, and a punch in the gut and you don’t know what to do, or what to think. You’re just down in the dumps and then you have to go in public, put on your best face and show up and do your job, and there are days where that’s really hard.

MW: For me too, man. At Talladega, (NASCAR president) Steve Phelps launched an initiative with the Boys and Girls Club of America and part of that is diversity and inclusion within NASCAR. How do you feel this journey for the sport has gone the past year?

BW: I think that was a big, big announcement for them. So proud of NASCAR and the Boys and Girls Club. I remember being one of the kids that were in Boys and Girls Club when I was little. So, it’s cool to see that come full circle and to see how we can implement ways to grow together, show the next generation coming up how to become a part of our sport. It’s important to show them that if you’re willing to work hard and not let anything hold you back, you can do whatever you want, whether that’s inside our sport or not. I think it’s a great partnership. A great fit for everything that’s moving forward and everything that we’re trying to accomplish these days.

MW: What is the biggest thing that’s surprised you with joining a team with championship aspirations and capabilities?

BW: This is a serious and if you want to be the best, you have to be there every day. You have to be there mentally every day. You have to be punctual, put into those meetings and make sure you’re doing debriefs the right way. It’s taking your feedback to the next level. It’s a different intensity, and it’s definitely shifted my mental mindset. Instead of just kind of showing at the race track and doing the minimal work, I am being given way more data and information, and I need to study every bit of it. I’ve challenged myself to really understand what I’m watching when I watch past races. The work on the Toyota simulator is next level because that’s our practice now. It’s not a video game or a waste of time. When people ask why we don’t practice right now, I say I do, but its virtually and it’s a huge tool for us to build our database. (Crew chief Mike Wheeler) didn’t know anything about me before this season, but that’s been a great way for us to connect and work on our communication.

What a difference 3 years makes..

Zero to Hero😂

Appreciate the time @TheGolfGuysTour 🤘🏾 pic.twitter.com/NAhGLVlHLg

MW: My last one for you is about your golf game. It seems as good as ever. What’s this zero to hero stuff?

BW: So, my zero to hero was me getting suspended or kicked out because three years ago.

MW: Oh, that’s right, you and Denny at Daytona!

BW: Yeah, that’s zero to hero. So, my golf game is actually subpar. I didn’t even play a good game that day but everyone played worse than me and I came away with a victory. You know, Daniel Hemric told me I needed to get back in the ‘Golf Guys Tour,’ but I wasn’t sure if I was reinstated. I joked with him that I wasn’t sure if there was an approval process or if I needed to go to some class for training. But I texted Denny and he told me come on down, and Hemric first pointed out that I was leading, and then I didn’t play very good golf on those last four holes. But my competition played down to my level. I got lucky!


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