Bubba Wallace made international headlines and social media trends at the height of the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020 when he publicly supported the organization and called a Talladega garage pull rope a ‘noose’ creating a backlash in the more conservative NASCAR fanbase. Now he’s made headlines again for his behavior.
Wallace’s PR situation has not significantly improved in the last three years with the driver becoming involved in varied controversies and his debunked ‘hate crime’ accusation lingering. Still, according to The American Tribune, Wallace’s behavior in response to the victory of NASCAR Champion Ryan Blaney is now center stage.
Reportedly after Wallace’s friend and colleague Blaney won the Championship in Phoenix in November, rather than join the celebration, Wallace abruptly flew back home.
He did, however, post briefly to X.
Brother. Champ. pic.twitter.com/2zZphuGIAi
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) November 6, 2023
As reported by the Tribune, Wallace later wrote another post about Blaney’s victory and why he flew home, as noted by the Associated Press “for five hours in silence.”
“Sitting here on the couch questioning everything. You would think your bud winning the championship would bring that joy and excitement back. Sadly it did not.”
Wallace continued, “It’s the helpless feeling that really kicks ya. My wife can see that I’m off but I don’t have the what or the why that I’m feeling this way to allow her to help me. To my peeps out there staring at a blank wall, I’m with you. Tomorrow is another day. Another opportunity. Keep after it.”
On Thursday, Blaney responded somewhat magnanimously, even seeming to empathize with Wallace.
“He called me a couple days later and I was like, ‘Man, I guess you winning the championship sent me into depression. Like congrats, but I don’t want to see that.’ “It’s just kind of how Bubba is, you know he’s very hard on himself. He is just super hard on himself and you try to pick him up, right? The other night I told him ‘Man, you did great. Tenth in points, you made a good run in the playoffs.’ OK, he didn’t win, but I mean, he had a great year.”
Eight days after his loss in Phoenix, Wallace posted to X, “I wasn’t very solid in phx…did Larson get me on the retention rate?”
Per the AP, Blaney was quick to retort, reminding Wallace that Blaney felt similarly in 2020 after Chase Elliott’s Championship run.
“There’s seeing a friend do it, and it’s other part of seeing another young guy around your age,” Blaney said per AP. “When Chase won the championship in 2020, he and I are really great friends, I was super happy for him. But I was also kind of jealous because I want to be that guy. I want to be in that spot.”
“You always kind of compare yourself to your age range. You get jealous of the guys in your group that have success,” he added. “And I’m the same way. I think everyone is internally, whether they express it or not.”
Wallace did post a bit of good-natured ribbing at Blaney though, jabbing at him for his NASCAR ceremony outfit writing “Yo @Blaney you should invite your pants down to your ankles so they could party!”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) December 1, 2023
Team co-owner Denny Hamlin told the outlet that 2022 appeared to take its toll, but collaboration with basketball great Michael Jordan helped to stabilize Wallace’s volatile emotions.
“Where he was in 2022 was a lot tougher to manage because you were doing a lot of damage control. Maybe some things he’d say in the media, we’d have to do some work on the backend to make it right,”
Bubba Wallace is NOT HAPPY with Kyle Larson.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 16, 2022
The fanbase largely seemed to turn on him with choruses of boos and jeers following him from race to race.
Most boos in driver intros: Bubba Wallace, and it wasn’t very close (way more than Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs). pic.twitter.com/wti0kneWC1
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) October 30, 2022
Hamlin said. “Michael really helped in stepping in and voicing his opinion on it, and making Bubba step up as a leader.”
It is unknown as of this report if he has sought or received any mental health treatment according to the AP. Wallace does seem to be recovering though, leaning on his wife at their Nashville home according to the outlet.