HAMPTON, Ga. – Bubba Wallace says he is ready to put his post-Daytona 500 skirmish with Denny Hamlin behind, but his extracurricular membership privileges would indicate otherwise for his new rival.
“I’m all good,” Wallace said in a Friday morning interview with NBC Sports at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I texted him Tuesday and he was like I’m kicked out of the golf league and the basketball league.”
Hamlin runs a weekly basketball gathering with NASCAR types called the Hoop Group and also is a key member of “The Golf Guys”. Wallace is a longtime member of the basketball league but said later he decided he wouldn’t play anymore. The Daytona 500 runner-up learned he was out of the golf league via five or six texts from “intermediaries.”
“No more,” Wallace said with a laugh. “My first season with Golf Guys, and I’m out. Damn it.”
During a Fox interview after practice Friday, Hamlin joked that “those positions have been filled” when asked about the leagues. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he was using the feud “as motivation. I’ve always been motivated. It just fires me up more to be more motivated. So, I have no issue at all. I’m here to do the best I can to get a good finish and put us in position to do well in the regular season, win some races, get some bonus points. These little bumps in the road are … they really are just speed bumps.”
Hamlin and Wallace slammed into each other on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Daytona International Speedway and then engaged in a shouting match in the garage after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about his recent comments about drivers using Adderall.
“From his tweets, he’s more upset about what was said after the fact,” Wallace said. “Which he had started as a joke. So when you take a dig at him, it’s not good. One-way street, I guess.”
Kevin Harvick said on his Happy Hours show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio that Hamlin should keep his mouth shut because of a lot of veterans were angry about his Adderall comments. Wallace said he echoed those comments to Hamlin.
“Yeah, it makes us all look bad,” Wallace said. “And I told (Hamlin) that. He said, ‘I don’t need a PR lesson from you.’ I’m like, ‘OK. I’ll be the one to say it.’ I won’t hold back. Clearly.”
A Facebook Watch documentary film crew that has been following Wallace for a docuseries has footage of the altercation but didn’t put it in the last two episodes that were released Thursday. Wallace said he wouldn’t have minded if it had been released.
“No, I wouldn’t care, but then the media would take it as, ‘Uh-oh, what are we going to expect from that at Atlanta,’” Wallace said. “Nothing! I’m going to go out and run my own race. He’s run here a million times and won a couple of races. This is my first time in a Cup car. I’m going to figure it out on my own and not even worry about him. It’s good that it wasn’t in there, but it’s also … I don’t know.
“I guess you can keep playing it up, but according to him, he wants to let it die down. He’s tired of hearing about the Adderall comment. Don’t make the comment, dumb ass!”
Here’s more of Wallace’s Q&A with NBC Sports, which took place in between several media hits that Wallace was doing in victory lane at Atlanta:
Q: You were at a heavy metal concert Tuesday night in Charlotte. Did you get recognized as Daytona 500 runner-up?
A: “I did! I went to will call and said ‘Hey, Darrell Wallace, plus one.’ And he held up my ID and said, ‘Hey, good job!’ And the lady behind him was ‘Hey, great job.’ Thanks!”
Q: Has that happened often since Sunday?
A: “Yes, it has. I’ve gotten a couple of people that were like, ‘Man, you’re a race car driver.’ I’m sitting in the lobby of the hotel, doing some CNN stuff, and a guy walks up and says, ‘Are you Bubba Wallace?’ ‘Yeah, I am.’ That was an awesome race. We go to Panda Express yesterday, and a firefighter is standing next to me. So I made eye contact, and I believe he was looking at his phone with me on it. Trying to put the two together. He’s like, ‘Are you Bubba Wallace?’ ‘Today, I am. Yes sir.’ ‘Oh man, great race Sunday.’ It’s pretty cool.”
Q: You heard from Lewis Hamilton and Hank Aaron before the race. Any big names since then?
A: “Man, I haven’t gotten anybody like that. But I did run into (former Washington Redskins star) Darrell Green right there as Denny Hamlin and I were going at it, Darrell Green was standing right here beside me, and he was like man, you handled yourself well there. This is awesome. So he was a fan. Elliott Sadler reached out with words of wisdom and advice. Just seeing what Dale and Kevin said on their podcast was really cool. Over 200 text messages. I haven’t gotten that many after I’ve won a race. Pretty cool.”
Q: Did you have editorial control of the Facebook Watch documentary?
A: “A little bit. I told him going into it. I did that BET show in 2010. Changing Lanes. That was super staged. I can’t watch reality shows now because I know all of it is fake. And I told them I’m not doing this shit if it’s staged. I will not do it. Some of it was just kind of recapping our day, which didn’t really understand. We’d do all the stuff in that one day, and then we’d talk about what we did. So. They can see what we did! They know what we’re doing! What’s the point in talking about it? So that got really old, really fast. So there will be some tweaks when we go back if they want to do a second season. Which they’ve talked about. But I’m not too excited on it.
“I dropped a dollar amount on them, and it was a substantial increase, and they were like OK. I’m like ‘Shit!’ I should have went way above that. I screwed myself.”
Q: Well, as long as you didn’t sign anything …
A: “I did. But it’s not set in stone for season 2. They just want an option to do it. We’ll see. It’d be this year. I don’t know when.”
Q: So you were happy with it, but it’s a hassle.
A: “Oh, it’s so much hassle. There’s a lot of stress that comes from it. Just because it’s can you do this, or do that? What’s your plans for today? I don’t go by a plan. If (Ryan) Blaney and (girlfriend) Amanda and I want to do something, I’ll wait for her to get home from work, we’ll sit there and do the typical couple argument what do you want to eat, what do you want to eat. OK, cool. We’re going there. They want to do at 7:30 what are you all doing? (Expletive), I don’t know. I’ll probably be on the (toilet). I don’t know. So annoying!”
Q: What will a good finish at Atlanta be for your team?
A: “I had the chance to ride with The King last night, we had a Coca-Cola dinner, so I fired off this question, ‘So what do you expect for this season?’ I wanted to know his take. And obviously keeping everything in realistic check, we want to win races, but going from where we were last year to winning races and being a dominant car, it’s not going to happen. That’s not how the sport works. So you go through the climbing of the ladder to get there. And so he says we were a top 15 to 20 car last year, mostly toward the top 20 side. And I want to be that top eight, that top 12 car. All right. I like it. I just kept saying top 10, top 15, moving it up that next second, and he went just a little bit beyond that, which I think we can do. Atlanta will be pretty tough. Just from me never having the best of stuff here, but we managed to get a sixth place, but that’s the Xfinity Series. Here, eight guys, you still got 10 others that are super fast, so that’ll be tough, but I’m excited. It was good to hear from where he wanted to stand, and he even said we’re not going to be that dominant car. It’s not going to happen. There will be some days where we’ll finish better than top 10. Way better. There’ll be some days where we finish way worse than top 10. It’s just one of those days.”
Q: Is that optimism from Daytona or there before it?
A: “I think it was there before that. At the end of the day, yeah, you finish second at Daytona. Great. Anyone can do that. Anyone who enters the Daytona 500 has a chance to win unless they are there to ride around in the back. Wrecks go that way. There hasn’t been a race yet where all the cars are wrecked out except one, but there’s a chance that could happen. So whoever is riding around in the back that misses every wreck and everybody wrecks out, there’s your Daytona 500 winner. That’s how the plate races go, so yeah, it was great to be able to get through that and still battle. How many cars on the lead lap in Daytona, 15? OK. But it’s Daytona. As long as you miss the wrecks, you’re going to have a good finish.”
Q: Is tire management over 500 miles the toughest part?
A: “For sure. I was watching the race last night, and Harvick even leading just coming off Turn 4 sideways. Nine laps into it. I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ.’ All right, he had a 2-second lead. I can only imagine what 15th place is like.”