Netflix series a sign of Bubba Wallace’s growing influence beyond NASCAR

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bubba Wallace had the location selected, a friend to serve as photographer and a cover story to ensure that his proposal to Amanda Carter would be a surprise.

But things didn’t go as planned last July. 

The cover story worked. Wallace and Carter flew to Oregon to finalize Wallace’s line of clothing that Columbia Sportswear recently launched. 

They stayed a few extra days in the Pacific Northwest with NASCAR off for the Olympic break. Wallace hid the engagement ring in his golf bag — “The only bag I cared about on the trip,” he told NBC Sports.

He had alerted Carter’s sister of his plans. She had one request for her future brother-in-law.

“Make sure you say something and don’t just freeze and say, ‘Will you marry me?’’’ She told Wallace.

“That’s the easy part,” he responded. 

Wallace knew what he would say when the moment came. They stopped at Multnomah Falls to take a picture. That was the setup. 

But the spray from the falls splashed Carter. As she implored Wallace to “hurry up” and take the picture, he scrambled to get the ring from his pocket. 

Carter walked away from the spot. 

Wallace called for her to stop, dropped to one knee and …

“I just sat there and did the exact opposite her sister said, and I froze and didn’t say a word,” Wallace said. “I didn’t ask if she would marry me. I just had the terrified deer in the headlights look. I wasn’t terrified. I was excited. 

“She said yes.”

That Wallace’s proposal didn’t go as expected mirrors his racing career, which had early success sidetracked by lack of sponsorship before he moved to Cup. Even in NASCAR’s premier series, he struggled with a lower-funded team before he joined Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin at 23XI Racing and won at Talladega last season.

Wallace never imagined himself an activist until seeing the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing. As the lone Black driver competing full-time in Cup, Wallace pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its events in 2020. He’s attracted new fans, but also has been booed at driver introductions by others. 

Wallace likes to say “What you see is what you get” with him, a sentiment he’ll share on his Nextflix docu-series that debuts Feb. 22. It’s just a part of Wallace’s growing influence as he heads into Sunday’s Daytona 500 and his second season with 23XI Racing.

NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
Fans hold a sign in support of Bubba Wallace at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2020. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Years ago, NASCAR claimed 75 million fans. Netflix had 222 million subscribers in the last quarter of last year. 

The potential reach for Wallace with the six-episode Netflix series titled “Race: Bubba Wallace” gives him and NASCAR the chance to be seen by people who might not be as familiar with the sport. The hope is to engage people as Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” Formula 1 series, which has been credited with increasing interest in that series in the U.S.

“I think it would be a success if we could get the people who aren’t my biggest fans to actually tune in to see what is Bubba Wallace, who is Bubba Wallace, really,” he told NBC Sports.

Erik Parker, who directed the series, wanted to show the challenges Wallace faced on and off the track. Parker told Wallace’s story through last season’s events while also going back to 2020 when Wallace moved to the forefront in the sport and the push for diversity, equity and inclusion.

That’s something that we, a lot of times, take for granted when we see somebody who is a public figure and they’re dealing with a lot of different people and a lot of different situations,” Parker told NBC Sports. “You’re not realizing what’s exactly happening on the inside and how they’re being pulled and what they’re doing to just maintain. How he does that is kind of inspiring in a lot of ways.”

Wallace’s reach stretches beyond a streaming platform. Columbia Sportswear launched the Bubba Wallace Collection of outdoor activewear Feb. 2 and marked the company’s first signature collection developed with a sponsored athlete. Wallace worked with Columbia’s design team on a lightweight puffer jacket, a special edition shoe, long sleeve shirt and crew neck sweatshirt, among other items.

NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 - Practice
Bubba Wallace with 23XI Racing team members at Daytona. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“It’s got the reds, the whites and golds in there,” Wallace said. “Gold is like a sense of royalty, so, to be able to provide people with that feeling is special because we all want that feeling in our lives. When they put a piece of BW wear on, the collection there, they can feel that, hopefully, and they can see that I thought about everybody in this collection, making them feel special.”

McDonald’s debuted a limited edition collection with 23XI Racing on Wednesday that will be available to purchase beginning Friday. Items included a custom bomber jacket, limited edition T-shirts and basketball shorts. All proceeds benefit the 23XI Institute, the team’s educational and professional development focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

While there’s much marketing around Wallace — he had a brief cameo in the McDonald’s Super Bowl commercial —  he still needs to perform. He finished 21st in points last year, missing the playoffs. 

Shortly after forming 23XI Racing, Jordan told NBC Sports in 2020, Jordan expressed his expectations for the team.

“My biggest conversation to Denny was, ‘Look, I don’t want to get in there just to go around the races and just go around and around and around and finish up 18th, 19th, 20th, 30th,” Jordan said. “I want to win. I want to be put in a position for the best chance for us to win. That’s my competitive nature. That’s always been who I am.”

While Wallace and the 23XI Racing bring in various sponsors and marketing opportunities, the team must balance on-track and off-track duties for the 28-year-old Wallace.

We work really hard on making sure that the focus is where the focus needs to be and that is him winning races and being competitive and doing what he needs to do to prepare and do his best on the track,” said Steve Lauletta, president of 23XI Racing, about Wallace. “We try to make sure that we don’t make that balance too far away from the track. 

“There are a lot of demands, and I think he handles them brilliantly. He knows how to be the Bubba Wallace that the brands have relied on and want to market to build their business. He knows when he has to be prepared for that. He hasn’t missed a beat with any of our (partners) last year and the new ones we brought on this year. I feel like we’ve got to continue to do that. 

“We can’t take the eye off the ball and have him be just the personality. He needs to be the playoff driver, the winning driver and, hopefully, the championship driver and those other things will continue to be there when that happens vs. the other way around.”

NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash - Qualifying Heat
Bubba Wallace is beginning his 10th season in NASCAR’s national series and his fifth full-time Cup season. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wallace is beginning his 10th season in NASCAR’s national series. He won his first Camping World Truck Series race as a rookie in 2013, taking the checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway. He won four times the following season and finished third in the points. 

Wallace moved to Xfinity in 2015. He finished seventh in points but was winless. He also did not win in 2016. Wallace lost his ride in 2017 when Roush Fenway Racing could not find enough sponsorship for the car and disbanded the team after 13 races.

Suddenly available, Wallace filled in for four Cup races in 2017 at Richard Petty Motorsports after Aric Almirola was injured in a crash at Kansas. When Almirola left the team after that season, Wallace took over the ride. He drove the No. 43 car for three years before moving to 23XI Racing last year.

Expectations were high a year ago for Wallace at 23XI Racing, even though it was the team’s first season. The partnership with Toyota and alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing fed the fervor. Wallace said before the season that his goal was two wins. 

As the team enters a second season and has added former champion Kurt Busch to be Wallace’s teammate, the goals are not as bold — at least publicly. 

NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash - Qualifying Heat
Bubba Wallace and team owner Denny Hamlin earlier this month at the Clash at the Colisuem. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Hamlin talks about both drivers making the playoffs instead of victory totals.

“I think we look at bigger picture,” Wallace told NBC Sports. “Bringing Dave Rogers on board (as performance director.), we actually went to lunch and we had a good heart to heart with each other. …  We talked about goals and expectations. I said top 10, to be consistent top 10.

“If you’re in the top 10, you’re in the playoffs. If you’re in the playoffs, you’re going to get some traction and some momentum. 

“For me, it’s just big picture. We take what the season will give us, not try too hard, not focus on two wins. Just go out and when the opportunities are right we capitalize.”

Just as he did last year at Talladega, becoming the first Black driver to win in Cup since Wendell Scott’s victory in December 1963. 

“I wish I could have been there today with him,” Frank Scott, son of Wendell Scott, told NBC Sports from his Danville, Virginia, home that day as family members celebrated in the background.

“But we were there with him. Not physically, but we were with him spiritually and emotionally. It was great, man.”

It was a special moment, but there are more races to run and that can mean more opportunities to win.

“I’m sure he’s not satisfied yet with where he is in spite of winning,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, about Wallace. 

Wilson said that the addition of Busch as a teammate and mentor, will make a difference for Wallace.

“Having Kurt on the shop floor right next to him and having Kurt as a mentor, as a confidant, as somebody that he can lean on is different than Denny because Denny is his owner first and foremost,” Wilson said. “Yes, (Hamlin) drives, but I think Kurt will help Bubba. I think Bubba will help Kurt. We expect that will help improve his consistency in his performance and we’re looking forward to seeing that.”

Dr. Diandra: Is 2023 the season for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. redemption?


Coming into 2022, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had two career Cup Series wins in 364 starts. But both wins — and his career-high 13th-place season finish — happened back in 2017.

Stenhouse was unceremoniously dropped by Roush Fenway Racing in 2020 and landed with JTG Daugherty Racing. He made the news every now and then at a superspeedway but could be counted upon to head up season-ending lists of drivers involved in the most accidents. In the years Stenhouse hasn’t been at the top of the list, he’s been near the top.

DNFs and accidents have plagued Stenhouse throughout his NASCAR career. Jack Roush went so far as to park the Mississippi native in his early days in the Xfinity Series because he tore up so much equipment.

Stenhouse redeemed himself, going on to win two Xfinity championships.

From the way his 2023 season has started, it looks as though Stenhouse might be on a similar mission of redemption this year in the Cup Series.

Finishing races

Stenhouse started the 2023 season in the best possible way – winning the Daytona 500. But drivers from less-funded teams who win early superspeedway races usually settle to the bottom of the rankings by now.

Stenhouse hasn’t. He ranks 13th heading into Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Standings aren’t as good a ruler this year as they usually are because of drivers missing races and teams incurring penalties. But Stenhouse’s statistics back up his ranking.

Stenhouse has finished every race this year on track, as opposed to in the garage or on the hook. Only Ryan Blaney and Corey LaJoie have achieved the same distinction.

In 11 of those 14 races, Stenhouse finished on the lead lap. That’s the same number of lead-lap finishes as William Byron. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are tied for most races finished on the lead lap with 13 each.

This time last year, Stenhouse had already racked up seven of the series-leading 18 caution-causing incidents he would be involved in for the season. Runner-up Chase Elliott had 15 incidents.

Going into Gateway this year, Stenhouse has been involved in only two accidents (Talladega and Charlotte) and had a tire go out at Darlington.

Approaching his career best

I compare three years in Stenhouse’s career in the table below: the 2017 season — his best to date — along with last year and the 14 races run so far this year.

A table comparing loop data stats for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. showing his path to redemption

Stenhouse’s current average finishing position of 13.5 ties with Christopher Bell for sixth best in the Cup Series. That’s 9.3 positions better than Stenhouse’s 2022 average. He’s even beating his 2017 average by 3.6 positions.

Qualifying results are down a bit from 2017 — but remember that those numbers are from the days when NASCAR allowed multiple practice sessions. Stenhouse is only two positions worse relative to 2017, but 7.6 positions better than last year when it comes to establishing his spot on the starting grid.

Stenhouse’s average running position is comparable to 2017 and 2.8 positions better than 2022. He ranks 20th among full-time Cup Series drivers in average running position. Although it’s an improvement, it’s still more than double William Byron’s series-leading 9.1 average running position this year.

More interesting is the difference between Stenhouse’s average running position his average finishing position. Some drivers run better than they finish. Stenhouse is doing the opposite.

In 2017, Stenhouse finished about 1.4 positions better than he ran. This year, he’s gaining an average of about five positions from where he runs.

One might argue this gain results from the plethora of late-race incidents this year that have removed drivers in the front of the field from contention. But Stenhouse deserves credit for putting himself in a position to benefit from those events.

Stenhouse’s green-flag speed rank is 11th among full-time Cup Series drivers. His 15.3 average, however, is 1.7 positions worse than 10th-place Kyle Busch. Still, it’s impressive that JTG Daugherty is right there in the mix with much better-funded teams. William Byron again has the best average green-flag speed rank at 7.9.

Consistently strong finishes

It’s not uncommon for a mid-pack driver to win a superspeedway race. But Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win appears to be something more. The table below summarizes his wins and finishes for the same three years.

A table comparing finishes for 2017, 2022 and 2023 showing Ricky Stenhouse Jr's redemption attemptsThe difference between last year and this year is striking.

In 2022, Stenhouse finished in the top 20 in 12 of 36 races. He’s already matched that mark this year. He earns top-20 finishes 85.7% of the time in 2023 compared to 33.3% last year. Top-20 finishes aren’t the same as contending for a championship. But they’re a first step.

Stenhouse finished 2017 with nine top-10 races. With about 60% of the season remaining, he’s already earned five top-10 finishes this year.

What’s changed? The Next Gen car is one factor, but it didn’t make much difference for Stenhouse last year. I would point instead to Stenhouse’s reunion with Mike Kelley as his crew chief.

Kelley co-piloted both of Stenhouse’s Xfinity championships in 2011 and ’12. Although Kelley worked with Stenhouse and previous crew chief Brian Pattie since 2020, this is the first year Kelley is back up on the pit box.

Together, they’re basically halfway to matching Stenhouse’s best year.

And another step closer to redemption.

Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Truck race results at WWT Raceway: Grant Enfinger wins


Grant Enfinger took the lead when the leaders wrecked in the final laps and held off the field in overtime to win Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It is Enfinger’s second win in the last five races. He also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the Triple Truck Challenge.

MORE: Truck race results

MORE: Driver points after WWT Raceway

Christian Eckes finished second and was followed by Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Chase Purdy.

Ty Majeski and Zane Smith wrecked while racing for the lead with six laps to go. Majeski, running on the inside of Smith, slid up the track and clipped Smith’s truck. Both hit the wall. That put Enfinger in the lead.

Smith finished 20th. Majeski placed 30th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Stewart Friesen

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Grant Enfinger’s victory is his fourth top 10 in the last five races. … Carson Hocevar’s fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five result. … Stewart Friesen’s third-place finish moved him into a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. … Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. … Jesse Love finished ninth in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski had a chance to take the points lead with series leader Corey Heim out because of illness, but Majeski’s 30th-place finish after running at the front most of the day, leaves him behind Heim. … Hailie Deegan finished 32nd after contact sent her truck into the wall hard. … After finishing a career-high third last week at Charlotte, Dean Thompson placed 34th Saturday due to an engine issue.

NEXT: The series races June 23 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1)