Bubba Wallace steps up to promote COVID-19 vaccinations


Following the recent pause of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine due to cases of extremely rare but severe blood clotting, there was reaction over how it could lead to more vaccine hesitancy.

NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace is doing his part to encourage others to be vaccinated.

On Wednesday, North Carolina-based healthcare system Novant Health announced it is working with the 23XI Racing driver to promote health equity and address vaccine hesitancy, particularly among minority populations.

Wallace and his 23XI crewmates received vaccines earlier this week.

“I’m not trying to shove it down people’s throats,” Wallace said Friday morning in a media teleconference. “I’m just saying, ‘Hey, I’m comfortable taking this route to get us back to a normal capacity in all aspects of life – go back to what we used to do.’

“… People I know are very hesitant on trying out some experimental shot or vaccine. But I’m okay right now. I feel good. And knowing I’m doing my part, a small part, to help everybody feel comfortable (with getting vaccinated) is big.”

Bubba Wallace
Through a new partnership with Novant Health, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace hopes to encourage others to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Photo: Novant Health)

This week’s news also led to reaction over the potential for further misinformation regarding all COVID-19 vaccines.

When asked about how he’s dealt with that, Wallace indicated that he’s sought different perspectives in forming his own thoughts.

“I think everything you read is kind of misinformed by the news, no matter what it is, so you’ve just kind of got to pick and choose and you have to do your research,” he said. “You can’t just sit there and let people do it for you. Do your due diligence. Make sure you’ve checked off every box on the list to make sure you’re comfortable moving forward with whatever avenue it is.

“That’s kind of how I’ve gone about things, as of recently. It’s like, ‘I hear these things, but let me check it out. Let me talk to family and friends and see if they’ve heard anything different to make (me) feel comfortable moving forward.'”

Wallace’s new partnership is emerging as NASCAR prepares to re-open its infield to a select number of fully vaccinated guests starting next month at Darlington Raceway.

Other drivers, plus one prominent crew chief, have discussed their thoughts about vaccination this week.

In their respective media availabilities, both reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon maintained that vaccination was a personal choice. Neither said if they have or would be vaccinated.

“I’m making decisions about my health on my own terms, and I will respect everyone else’s decisions just the same as I hope to get the privacy and respect of mine,” Elliott said.

“I think that’s personal information,” said Dillon, who missed last year’s Daytona road course race after testing positive for COVID-19. “I don’t know how to answer that question.”

In a segment on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Joey Logano said that he contracted COVID-19 at the end of the year, but that his symptoms only lasted a few days. He also said he had not been vaccinated.

“Honestly, I’m waiting to see how things go for a minute before I make my decision,” Logano said. “But I have not been yet.”

Fellow Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski says he hasn’t decided on vaccination, either.

“I haven’t been in a position where I need to because it hasn’t been available to me,” Keselowski said, “but it’s a discussion that my family and I certainly will have when that time comes.”

Keselowski’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure which of his No. 2 team crewmates have been vaccinated.

As for himself, Bullins said he hasn’t been – but he has an appointment scheduled.

“It’s one of those things where it’s encouraged,” he said. “It seems like it’s going OK and there’s no reason not to get it, so it’s something we’re encouraging everybody to do. But it’s a choice and I understand if somebody doesn’t want to get it.”

Regarding the chance to entertain sponsors and guests again, both Logano and Bullins are eager.

Logano was particularly glad about re-starting his foundation’s “JL Kids Crew” program, where children in tough situations join him and the No. 22 team for a day of fun at the track.

“We haven’t been able to do that since COVID started,” he said on SiriusXM. “We have a list of kids ready to go, and it’s been frustrating.

“We want to do it and we’re trying to find different ways of doing it, and it’s not the same if you do it on Zoom. It’s just not. Virtual meet and greets are not the same.”