Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. was all dressed up with nowhere to fall.
Wallace drives the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 full time in NASCAR’s top series for Richard Petty Motorsports. He was scheduled to tandem jump with the Air Force Academy-based Wings of Blue on Tuesday morning, but it was scrapped due to high winds.
It would have been the first jump for the “adrenaline junkie.” Should he ever want to put the instruction he received at the academy to good use, his employer has a good working relationship with the Air Force.
“Air Force has been a part of the team for many years,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of perks that come with it. Go in fighter jets, jump out of perfectly good airplanes. ... I’m just taking it all in.”
He still toured the academy, ate lunch with cadets and tried out several testing and training tools in the Athletic Center Human Performance Lab.
Competition cropped up everywhere. When Keith Tolley, demonstration coordinator for the parachute team, proposed doing a flip out of the airplane, Wallace agreed, encouraging him to “make it exciting.” He wanted to know the top number to beat while trying to hit targets with a laser pointer.
When it was jokingly suggested drivers could only make left turns before flipping around, he quipped back, “Well we’ve got a road course coming up, so … good practice.”
The practice wouldn’t hurt, but it’s been a good month so far for Wallace. He finished third at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 8, his best finish since he was runner-up at the 2018 Daytona 500.
He was 23rd last weekend in Las Vegas before his short trip to Colorado. He drew headlines there for another reason — commentary.
“We get paid to race, not fall in line and not race the other guys as hard,” he was quoted as saying during the media session, on the topic of some veteran drivers’ distaste for being “raced hard.”
“I don’t know if you were racing 20 years ago in this series and it wasn’t like this. Well, it’s a new day. (Expletive) changes every day. Get accustomed to it.”
Wallace’s candor has earned him fans — he opened up earlier this year about his long battle with depression — and so has his progress. The Mobile, Alabama, native is one of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program’s greatest success stories. His 2013 Truck Series win at Martinsville made him the first African-American driver to win in one of NASCAR’s national series since Wendell Scott in 1963.
Next up is a night race at Richmond, Va., on Saturday.
“We’re building off momentum (from Indianapolis),” he said. “(Vegas) went a lot better than we expected. But we have a lot of good things coming through the pipeline to finish off the rest of the season.”