The seventh and eighth (and final) episodes of the Facebook series “Bubba Wallace: Behind the Wall” were released today and it capsulizes Wallace’s run-up to the Daytona 500, including the Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway in Episode 7 and his first Daytona 500 appearance and ultimate runner-up finish in Episode 8.
Among the highlights of Episode 7, called “Embrace It”:
* On “black driver” continuing to be an identifier among the media to describe him: “A lot of media outlets, their headline is ‘black driver’ or ‘African-American driver.’ And fans are getting tired of that.
“So I was letting them know that, look, I’ve accepted it – and I know almost every story you call up is going to start with that – embrace it and carry on back with your day.
“I’m going to be labeled. It’s going to happened, so it’s all part of it, so just enjoy it, sit back, embrace it, so when you look back at it 10 years from now, you want to make that image look good.”
* He wrote “Daytona 500” on his shoes to remind himself that he was there. It was kind of his way of pinching himself that all this was really happening to him.
Then he said about being in the 500, “I’m just glad to be here. I’ve worked real hard to be at this level and it all just starts right now, you know?”
* Showed him visiting sick kids in a hospital on Valentine’s Day. Said Bubba: “I do think I made some new fans, I definitely think they’re going to be cheering on purple (for sponsor Click n’ Close). Everybody loves purple.
“I love visiting the kids. It’s something special that if anybody has the time to set aside to do this, to give back, it’s so special for the kids to be able to just enjoy it all. They have idols and people that they look up to and want to be like some day, so for me, I’d like to be that person.”
* He has a humorous exchange with best friend and fellow driver, Ryan Blaney, after last Thursday’s Can-Am Duels. Blaney shakes Wallace’s hand, prompting Bubba to quip, “Thanks, dog, wash your hands after.” To which Blaney responds, “What, did you just poop?” Wallace replies, “No, I’m sick.”
* One of the more poignant conversations captured on film include this exchange between Wallace and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer before the Can-Am Duels:
Bubba says: “About time (he can’t wait to get racing).”
Replies Drew: “It is, it is. This is the easy part, just do our deal. This will be the start. Whatever happens tonight is not going to define us. But it will be the start of a big ball of momentum to get rolling here.”
* Blaney won the Duel, Joey Logano snuck by Bubba to finish second, with Wallace a close third.
When Wallace climbed out of the car, team owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty gave him a big hug, saying, “You done damn good.”
When Wallace got into the Daytona media center, he said of Petty: “I just had a bodyguard walk me from the car to (the media center), and his name was Richard Petty.
“I have never seen him that excited before. That was the coolest thing, him coming up, huge hug, his sunglasses were off, and that was so the highlight of the night. It was one of these full-wrap (hugs) and then walked with (his arm around Wallace) all the way (to the media center).
“… I feel like we had just won the race, as proud as he was.”
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And then there’s the final episode of the series, titled “My First Daytona 500.”
Among its highlights:
* Bubba on the eve of the Daytona 500: “The 60th running of the Daytona 500 is tomorrow, my first Daytona 500. Got through this whole week, going to bed knowing I’m waking up for the biggest race of my career.”
* Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer giving Wallace pre-race advice and the team’s commitment to him on the parade laps: “We will claw and scratch and fight our ass off for you all day long. We know you’ll do the same for us. And at the end of the day, we’ll take what we get.”
* His mother, Desiree, admits she’s a “nervous wreck” before the race.
* As he goes around the racetrack during pre-race introductions, a group of fans are screaming, “Bub-ba, Bub-ba, Bub-ba!” To which Wallace replies, “Did y’all hear any boos? I didn’t hear any boos. Damn right, I didn’t hear any boos. (That’s) before the race starts though. We’ll see how many we get after the race.”
* Just before Wallace took a phone call from Baseball Hall of Famer and fellow Mobile, Alabama native Hank Aaron, wishing him a good race, former NFL player Charles Woodson stopped by to say hello and poignantly added, “Keep breaking down barriers. Good luck.”
* Wallace’s final comments before the race: “This is the Daytona 500. All of a sudden, the mood just gets amped up. It’s a physical race, it’s an emotional race, I finally get to experience it all. Pretty special.”
* There’s an emotional scene almost halfway through the episode when his girlfriend and mother are concerned about Bubba in one of the late big wrecks. Blickensderfer asks him if he’s okay, and Wallace replies with a quip, “Yeah, but by drawers aren’t.”
* Wallace wasn’t sure where he finished, so he asked Blickensderfer. “P2, P2.” To which Wallace and his girlfriend seemed to reply at the same time, “Holy (expletive).”
* The best part of the episode starts with about six minutes left, the post-race segment. He hugs Richard Petty and refers to him as his “grandpa,” talks to the fans and then starts crying in the media center. “I’m just so excited to be where I’m at today,” Bubba says. “It’s an incredible opportunity for a 24-year-old who just goofs off and happens to drive race cars for a living.”
Then, with tears in his eyes, he says, “I try to play tough guy most of the time, keep my emotions to myself, but man, there was just so much leading up to this moment, there was just a lot riding on us. I think it was all the pressure that was there finally hit me.”
Bubba then has a very touching moment with his mother, both crying their eyes out, where he tells her, “You act like we just won the race!”
During the post-race press conference, Wallace says to himself, “Pull it together, bud, pull it together. You just finished second. It’s awesome.”
Another poignant moment by Wallace afterward late in the episode: “Holy (expletive). We just finished second in the Daytona 500. That just hit me now. That’s so cool, my phone is going to be blowing up – and I didn’t even win the race.”
* One thing Wallace did not address in the final episode was his post-race tete-e-tete with Denny Hamlin.