Bubba Wallace keeping an eye on both Talladega and Martinsville


If Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. looks a little cross-eyed this weekend at Talladega, don’t be alarmed.

While sitting behind the wheel of the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, Wallace will have one eye focused on Saturday’s Fred’s 250 Camping World Truck Series, in which he hopes to close the points gap.

Wallace is in fourth place in the standings, 33 points behind series leader Matt Crafton.

“I don’t like to think about points,” Wallace said after Friday’s first practice session at Talladega. “I know what we have to do, but this is a race and a big enough stress ball to worry about.

“So if we can come out of here (unscathed) then maybe we can start talking, but I probably still won’t talk after this race. … Because of incidents happening early on this season, we should be higher up in the standings than where we are now. I can say that for sure.”

Staying out of trouble – particularly wrecks on the 2.66-mile superspeedway – will be the key if Wallace hopes to accomplish his goal and narrow the margin between himself and Crafton.

“It’s Talladega, cautions breed cautions here,” Wallace said after Friday’s first practice. “We just have to be on the plus side of that and on the front end of it.

“Really you’re in trouble anywhere you go. If you’re at the front, the middle or you’re at the back then you can get caught up in it. I just think of where I see Kyle (Busch) running at Talladega and he’s either second or third or leading the race and he ends up winning. That’s what we need to do.”

Wallace then added an understatement that can be applied to any NASCAR vehicle – truck or car – while competing at Talladega.

“You’re never safe until the checkered flag,” Wallace said. “(We) try to control our own destiny and just ride. You feel like you’re doing that already and (then) something happens so you never know.”

As for Wallace’s other eye, he can’t help if he’s looking ahead to next week’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

It was one year ago that Wallace won on the tiny half-mile bullring, becoming the first African-American driver to ever win a Truck race, and the second to win a NASCAR race on any pro level in nearly five decades since Wendell Scott did so in December 1963.

“It’s huge and I’m excited to get back to Martinsville,” Wallace said. “It’s going to be an exciting weekend for sure, a huge media hit for us. We’re coming back to keep the title going. We need to win us another grandfather clock and win us another race. We should have had a couple more before this.”

MORE: Darrell Wallace Jr. takes historic NASCAR Trucks win at Martinsville

To commemorate the anniversary of his breakthrough win, instead of driving his all black No. 54 Tundra, Wallace will be driving a truck with a different paint scheme and truck number (34) at Martinsville, both in honor of Scott, who will be inducted early next year into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The No. 34 was Scott’s number, as was the blue and white paint scheme, during most of his NASCAR racing career.

“I’m excited, the colors look good with the blue and white Toyota Tundra and the No. 34 will be different for sure,” Wallace said. “I’m excited to carry on the Wendell Scott banner and represent their family and his legacy for that weekend.  It’s going to be an exciting weekend.”

The significance of his first win at Martinsville – he’s since added two additional wins earlier this year at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis and in the dirt track race at Eldora Raceway (Ohio) – is not lost on Wallace.

In fact, it’s had a profound effect and impact upon him and his career.

“I turned 21 since then so happy birthday to me,” Wallace quipped. “The maturity level has gone up I would say inside the race car.

“I think just learning everything and learning the tracks and understanding how things work, letting little stuff go and focusing on the end of the race instead of getting flustered at the beginning when I lose six or seven spots and get upset and end up wrecking – (like) Charlotte and Kentucky last year.

“Now we just go out and have fun, smooth race and we’re still not happy if we don’t win. But it’s still a good points day finishing sixth versus 26th. I think that has changed a lot and I’ve relaxed and learned to take in more and listen more and go out there and utilize that what I’ve learned in those races and it’s definitely shown.”

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Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).