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Bubba Wallace reluctantly relives 2020 mayhem in new Netflix doc

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. “It’s not a hoax. It’s real.”

That’s what former FBI surveillance officer Stanley Ruffin tells viewers in “RACE: Bubba Wallace,” a Netflix trove of documents documenting the history of the only black driver in the country. NASCAR’s highest qualifications and the enhancement of his or her professional and personal role in social justice issues. The series is aimed at non-NASCAR audiences, unfamiliar with Wallace’s appearance or the facts surrounding the noose found in his garage stall at an Alabama race track.

Wallace successfully called for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its events in June 2020. Two weeks later, NASCAR told Wallace that a noose was discovered in his designated stall at Talladega Superspeedway.

The incident comes at the height of a national racial reckoning following the murders of black George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. For the first time in his life Wallace felt compelled to take on a public position – he’s 26 years old, is NASCAR’s only full-time black driver, and even though he drives for iconic Richard Petty , but Wallace was an underdog looking for his first Cup Series win of his career.

The FBI investigated and determined the noose had been in that garage for months, since it was last used. Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime.

He faced the ridicule of the nation – President Donald Trump then accused Wallace of carrying out a hoax – though Wallace didn’t spot the noose or even see it. Wallace was accused of staging the whole incident to advance his career.

“Mr Wallace had nothing to do with putting that noose on,” Ruffin, who led the investigation, said in the trove of documents released Tuesday, two days after the Daytona 500 opened the season.

The six-episode series directed by Erik Parker chronicles Wallace’s life and eventual transformation into a willing change agent using his voice and background. Wallace wanted a gig – he asked Netflix to create something like the behind-the-scenes show “Drive to Survive” – ​​to document his first year driving for 23XI Racing.

Wallace knew the project had to include his tumultuous 2020.

“I just want to go racing,” Wallace said. He told the Associated Press, “I have a lot of pain in my butt,” with Parker as the director tries to focus on 2020.

Wallace exploded in exposure and raked in millions of dollars in new funding in 2020, and he considers it the work of a lifetime. Funding has helped Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan debut 23XI, and Wallace wants to document what he believes is his best chance at earning his first Cup win of his career.

“I wanted that on record,” Wallace told the AP. “And I want people to see what it takes to be successful at this level and how difficult it is… I want to show what’s on my mind going into these races.

“But, the other side of that is things that don’t follow direction. The way Bubba Wallace got his name off the track is everything from 2020. It was Erik’s way, he wanted to capture the historical side of things and I focused on the racing side. . It created an interesting dynamic there.”

Parker relies on Wallace in “RACE” to recount Talladega’s emotional roller coaster ride, from discovering the noose to Wallace got his first career win 15 months later at the same track.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps warned Wallace about the noose, and the driver included his estranged father among the first phone calls made. Their relationship has been strained since his parents’ 2016 divorce, a topic mentioned as a possible source of Wallace’s admittedly struggles with depression.

“They found a noose,” Wallace recalled telling his father.

“Do you have a gun?” Wallace said Darrell Wallace Sr. answered.

“Is not.”

“You need to have one.”

Parker told the AP that he finds asking Wallace to resurrect in 2020 contradicts Wallace’s life.

“It seems like his mantra is moving forward, forward, forward,” said Parker, who added that he felt compelled to accurately document “a traumatic time.” so, not just for Bubba, but for the country.”

“Where can I see someone like Bubba, he’s trying to move into the next day, he’s already over that,” Parker told the AP. “So bringing him back, it always felt like pulling him back into the past, while he was running into the future. It’s not all easy, but it’s an important endeavor. ”

That was Wallace’s attitude Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway, where he deflected questions about his race.

He’s still the only black driver in the top ranks of NASCAR, but 34-year-old Jesse Iwuji, a commanding lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, will Became the second full-time black racer this season with plans to run in the quadratic Xfinity Series.

Iwuji co-owns his team alongside Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, who joined NASCAR a year after Jordan and entertainer Pitbull joined the ownership ranks. Floyd Mayweather has a car that will try to qualify for the Daytona 500, as does NY Racing, the team owned by black businessman John Cohen.

As the season kicks off Sunday with the Daytona 500, Cup Series race director Jusan Hamilton will become the first Black race director in the long history of NASCAR’s biggest event.

McDonald’s, one of Wallace’s sponsors, announced a streetwear line Wednesday in partnership with drivers and 23XI. Proceeds from the 10-piece collection will benefit the 23XI Speed ​​Institute, a development program focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. sports car racing.

Hamlin said the McDonald’s is part of 23XI’s desire to push the boundaries and go beyond NASCAR standards – a directive from Jordan himself.

“I think it’s very important for our team to be different,” says Hamlin. Next thing, you know that you have people wearing NASCAR devices again. “

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