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Nascar’s Bubba Wallace was pretty stressed out in 2020. It only helped his career

“I haven’t put my phone down,” he says.

Nascar’s Bubba Wallace was pretty stressed out in 2020. It only helped his career
[Photo: Barry Cantrell/Richard Petty Motorsports]
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Because of COVID, we’re just showing up and racing—that’s all our schedule allows. No practice runs, no qualifying rounds, no nothing. That’s tough on the crew, because we need to practice working together. You have to make sure you get the [car] set up right. But we could only go off of last year’s notes about the races, even though our cars are different from last year . . . . We had a two-month break, and I was eating everything in the pantry and not really training or working out. I have a fast metabolism, I guess. . . . [Normally,] 12 to 13 people on our team travel with me every weekend. We’re all pretty close and give each other a lot of crap. We play Mario Kart and Nintendo Switch on the plane. Now we play [remotely,] for money—it’s a pretty big deal.

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I never thought of myself as an activist. [The killing of] George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Nascar’s a tough sport because to succeed you have to have sponsors and funding behind you. So when I decided to say something about racism in this country, I didn’t know if my sponsors were going to like it. It’s been good to see that people actually want to be part of the journey—we’ve been getting more phone calls than ever before. I haven’t put my phone down from all the interviews, but it seems like the more stressed out I am, the better we do on the racetrack. I’m not complaining.

I saw people tweet about how they wouldn’t come to races if there was a Confederate flag flying, and it sparked something in me. I just asked Nascar to ban them. I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen. I remember when the president tweeted about me. I was lying in bed, and I was like, What? I went to check if it was a verified account to make sure it was actually the president. It was like, All right, here we go, my name is out there for sure. I had two ways to go about it: Either stoop down to that level or go higher than the highest seat in office. I chose to go higher.

Time he gets up

“I got up at 9:30 this morning. But I have a new puppy, a golden Aussiedoodle, and he wakes me and my girlfriend up early a lot of the time. He’s crazy.”

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First thing he does in the morning

“Take the dog for a walk and try to figure out what to eat for breakfast. This morning I had Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. If I wake up late enough, I might just have some gum and wait until lunchtime.”

Productivity tools

“I use the Notes app on my phone to jot down notes after races and practices, to share my thoughts on our debrief calls.”

What’s in his work space that keeps him grounded

“I have a life-size cardboard cutout of myself that my sister gave me as a joke. I also had a custom gaming desk built so I can play PC games late at night, like Call of Duty or racing games. So call me a nerd or whatever.”

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Worst habit

“Drinking tons of soda. But when you’re endorsed by Coke, what are you gonna do?”

Time he goes to bed

“10:30 or 11, but sometimes I stay up until 2 playing games.”