Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 will have a new look this Wednesday, June 10 at Martinsville. The Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet will sport an all-black paint scheme with “#BlackLivesMatter” on the sides and several emblems in support of the cause.
Wallace wore a T-Shirt prior to Sunday’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway with both “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned on the front. The former is in reference to the words of George Floyd, who died while in police custody two weeks ago. The officer who stepped on Floyd’s neck with his knee, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Floyd’s death, as well as those of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, among others, sparked – as of this writing – more than two weeks of protests, riots and demonstrations around the world in support of victims of racial discrimination and injustice.
In addition to Wallace’s attire, NASCAR held a 30-second moment of silence in support of the movement after a message from President Steve Phelps. It was followed by a video message from dozens of NASCAR drivers, all vowing to stand up against racism.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 9, 2020
Wallace’s car also features two arms, one black and one white, grasping hands on the hood. The hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” is painted on both sides where a sponsor would normally be, paired with a peace sign on the rear quarterpanels. Underneath the hood design, as well as on the back bumper, are the words “Compassion, Love, Understanding.” The driver has become the focus of the movement within the sport, as he is the only full-time black driver participating in the Cup Series.
Richard Petty Motorsports made the announcement with an eight-minute video on Tuesday (July 9), just over 24 hours before the race’s scheduled start time.
“I’m excited about this opportunity to run a #BlackLivesMatter car for Martinsville, one of our best racetracks,” Wallace said in the video. “With this statement we have right here that we’re about to make, with running this racecar on live television on FOX, I think it’s going to speak volumes to what I stand for – but also the initiative that NASCAR, the whole sport, is trying to push.”
The concept to support #BlackLivesMatter through the paint scheme came up during the two-week protest movement gripping America.
“It was actually on Blackout Tuesday,” Wallace said of the idea, “which was a special day and a big day for our country…seeing millions and millions of people peacefully protesting. We knew that the Martinsville race was open, we did not sell sponsorship for that, and it sparked an idea of ‘why not run a blackout car?’, and I was like ‘absolutely, that would be incredible.’ Our team brought that idea to me and I jumped all over it.”
Learn more: pic.twitter.com/MHWwNzIzFJ
— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) June 9, 2020
The No. 43 also has the trademark pair of swooshes near the number, but the colors were altered to match the hood – one white, one black.
“Let’s make a statement behind it,” Wallace said. “[We could] run a foundation or a charity that is helping push the narrative and the initiative of what’s going on in the world today, you know, racial equality… [and] why not dive in straight to the root in putting ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the car, the most powerful hashtag going around I feel like these last couple days, last couple months.”
Wallace was also quick to point out the substance behind the hashtag. He feels there’s a clear meaning in that phrasing that justifies putting the words on the car.
“It’s true, black lives do matter,” he added. “It’s not that we’re saying no other lives matter, we’re trying to say that black lives matter too. If we put ‘too’ on the end, I think a lot more people would understand it. We want to be treated equally, and not judged off our skin color. …We want to be a part of this nation as one and come together as one, but we always say ‘all lives will not matter until black lives matter,’ so I think by running this branding on our car, putting the hashtag out there [and] bringing more awareness to it, it lines up with the videos we put out – NASCAR listening and learning and educating ourselves, so people will look up what this hashtag means and hopefully get a better understanding and know that we’re not trying to create division, we are trying to unite.”
Wallace will start 23rd in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. The race will get underway shortly after 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 10 with coverage provided by FOX Sports.