Bubba Wallace biding time, but not hiding

Bubba Wallace was at home in North Carolina on Friday afternoon instead of sitting in a race car at Watkins Glen International.

That pretty much sucks. Although on a positive note, Wallace said he’s taking the opportunity to learn a new song on the drums.

But Wallace won’t be sitting still for long. In an effort to stay relevant, keep his face out there and maintain a good relationship with Nickelodeon, Wallace will fly to Chicago on Friday night to judge a NASCAR-related art contest on Saturday afternoon.

Local street artists have been painting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles murals, and whoever paints the best one will win the “A Good Day for Play” contest and get to design the trophy for September’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Is judging an art contest as good as racing? No, of course not. But Wallace is doing everything he can to try and get back to the track as a competitor.

“It’s tough for sure,” Wallace told me by phone. “Never thought the day would come where I’m kind of on the sidelines where I’m looking at what’s next.”

But Wallace said the opportunity to drive the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports and be successful in it — he finished 11th at Kentucky Speedway in just his fourth start — was “the next step to show I could do it.”

“I think I raised an eyebrow to fellow competitors and future sponsors and team owners,” he said. “We’ll just see what comes out of it, and I’m not giving up by any means. I’ve got a ton of people in my corner, just seeing what we could do next year. This (Nickelodeon partnership) is helping that process.”

That Wallace isn’t currently in a car is mystifying to many people, including Anthony DiCosmo, who is Nickelodeon’s senior vice president of sports marketing. DiCosmo works with athletes all the time and thinks particularly highly of Wallace, who he called a “marketer’s dream.”

“Are you kidding me? He’s one of the most marketable guys that I’ve seen in professional sports in a really long time,” DiCosmo told me. “The day I met him, I said, ‘Man, this guy is super personable, very well-spoken, good-looking gentleman.’ He’s got all of the youthful personality and a great amount of swag that’s appealing to young kids. It didn’t take us too long to think, ‘Hey, we’ve got to work with this guy.’”

And that’s been the case for a couple years. In addition to appearing on Nickelodeon’s Hammer Down show, Wallace was chosen to drive a SpongeBob SquarePants car in 2015 (SpongeBob is a Nickelodeon property) as well as the Turtles’ Shredder car last season.

Earlier this week, DiCosmo told SportsBusiness Journal that Nickelodeon would be interested in sponsoring Wallace in the Chicagoland Cup Series race if everything worked out. But there’s nothing to announce yet.

As for other upcoming opportunities for Wallace?

“I think we could get a couple races here and there,” Wallace said. “We’ve got some exciting news we could share with you guys in the next couple weeks. So we’ll have to keep plugging away.”

In the meantime, Wallace will be attending events like the one in Chicago — and hoping something he does will lead to another opportunity.

12 Replies to “Bubba Wallace biding time, but not hiding”

    1. It’s the same ol’ story. NASCAR isn’t doing enough for the African-American driver. How come they went out of their way to make sure that all of the other nationalities get their props. I am sick and tired of what is going on. Danica Patrick, who can’t drive a lick, still have a ride. How come JGR didn’t keep him and how come Roush shut down his ride? It’s favored RACISM.

      1. Roush lost it’s their sponser, don’t know about Gibbs. Danica has had deep pockets but it’s getting a little thin. I agree he is a very good driver but he needs high dollar sponsors so don’t fall into the trap of skin color.

  1. Discouraging that such a talented, well spoken young man with tons of personality can’t find sponsorship to keep racing.

  2. NASCAR really needs him to be successful. He has got a lot of character and liked by most. Him and Matt Dibenedetto might breath some life back into NASCAR. The fan interest in racing is still there, just look at Alonso at Indy, more people streamed his practice than watched the cup race there. Not to mention the race day crowd. NASCAR fans are not interested in nothing but smooth, polished pretty boy company spokesman’s. Give me somebody we can relate to.

  3. That’s awesome to hear that he might have news to share soon. Props to Nickelodeon for wanting to work with Bubba, hopefully we’ll see him on track in Chicago and elsewhere soon!!

  4. A lot of people are hoping something goods comes his way and tomorrow is not soon enough.

  5. He needs to win a race in the xfinity series to prove himself. How many years has he faced xfinity without getting even one win. And now people expect him to be given a cup ride for diversity. Prove you can win in xfinity Bubba, period. Don’t expect a gimmee.

    1. Jack Rousch Xfinity team is not very good. He’s done an amazing job with the lack of equipment. They got lucky and pointed their way to a championship with Buescher.

      Speaking of which Bubba should have had a win in Xfinity if Buescher didn’t wreck him for the win.

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