If you want Darrell Wallace Jr. to help pay for your college experience, you need to be a better student than he was.
That’s the underlying theme behind Wallace’s first philanthropic venture, “The Bubba Wallace Scholarship.”
“What’s funny is and I’ll be honest with you, I was kind of the opposite of what the scholarship lays out, so it’s kind of funny that it’s all coming back around,” Wallace told NBC Sports.
It also helps to be a student at Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, North Carolina.
The Xfinity Series driver announced Jan. 31 he had established the “merit-based” scholarship at has alma mater to benefit one student a year beginning in 2017.
The $10,000 scholarship will be awarded to a senior graduating who is “a hard working individual with focus and determination, who is ready to pursue their dreams.”
As an aspiring race car driver in school, Wallace could check off all of these – except when it came to his academics.
“Once racing came about for me I was so focused on racing, and school potentially wound up coming second,” Wallace said. “It was like, ‘let’s just do what we need to do to get by.’ And now I’m over here preaching. We’re looking for the ones that don’t do what they need to do just to get by, we need the ones with expectations, so it’s kind of funny.”
The scholarship, which Wallace approached his alma mater about after brainstorming with his “brand manager” Kyle Hall, is his first attempt to establish his name on something that isn’t a race car or a trophy.
“I was always told to never forget where I came from,” Wallace said. “Because I would get my butt whooped from my mom, who was the one saying not to forget where I came from.”
The Mobile, Alabama, native said there’s a “little pressure” in having to make the decision of choosing which potential student receives his scholarship as an investment in their future.
“If all goes well on the race track, then it’s easy for me to set that money aside and obviously start managing and planning out our next move for the scholarship program,” Wallace said. “There’s not really a right or wrong person here. I wouldn’t say there’s too much pressure, it’s all about finding the one that exceeds all levels that the scholarship has the foundations of and just going along with it.”
Wallace is entering his third Xfinity season driving the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. This will be his fifth full-time season competing in one of NASCAR’s national series after two seasons in the Camping World Truck Series. The African-American driver won five races in the Truck series, but is still seeking his first Xfinity victory.
Wallace is in a position to help others after being part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs.
But even with his hectic racing schedule ramping up as he looks for someone to further sponsor his own racing dreams, Wallace has more plans to help others. He’s “80 percent” of the way to establishing his own foundation, the “Live to be Different Foundation.”
“Every driver has their own organization, right?” Wallace joked. “For me, it’s a little bit different. Growing up in a sport where it took me a little bit to be accepted, one, of age and then one of skin color, that’s why it’s called ‘Live to be Different Foundation.’ That’s kind of the gist of it. You’re different, doesn’t matter. You can still do whatever you want, just like I’m doing whatever I want and doing what I love.”
There isn’t yet any specific cause the foundation will support, but Wallace is looking at benefiting the chronically ill and the disadvantaged. Wallace also serves as an ambassador for the cancer awareness program, the Movember Foundation.
“The foundation is created to assist individuals that are striving to do whatever they want, to achieve their goals, no matter their age, skin color, disabilities, anything, you know?” Wallace said. “That also kind of ties back into the scholarship program. They need a little bit of help to get to the next level, the next step.”
Whoever is able to get to the next step will remember help came from a guy named Bubba.