By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Following a tumultuous 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Bubba Wallace has been recognized as the winner of the 2020 NMPA Pocono Spirit Award.
The National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) recognized Wallace for his advocacy in making NASCAR more diverse and inclusive. Following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd the Mobile, AL native successfully lobbied the sanctioning body to ban the Confederate flag from its’ events.
NASCAR held a brief moment of silence prior to the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in which President Steve Phelps addressed the need for change.
A moment of silence and a message from NASCAR President Steve Phelps and drivers. pic.twitter.com/jy1U48qeLX
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 7, 2020
“Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard,” Phelps explained. “The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country. It has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better.”
For his part, Wallace joined with many of his competitors including Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Blaney, recorded a message stating that they would work together for real change.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 7, 2020
Shortly thereafter, Wallace, drove a Black Lives Matter paint scheme at Martinsville Speedway. Despite a mechanical issue on a pit stop, the 27-year-old rallied to finish 11th in the famous Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Wallace’s message of “Compassion, Love, Understanding” opened the door to many race fans previously wary of NASCAR’s Southern history.
“It’s an honor to win the NMPA Pocono Spirit Award this year,” said Wallace. “In a year of ups and downs, what we were able to accomplish off the racetrack as a sport is something that is special and a proud moment for me.
“I didn’t set out to become an advocate this year, but as things were happening around our country, I found myself in a position to use my voice and push for change. I’m proud of what we accomplished, but we still have work today. Thanks to the NMPA and all of their members for this honor.”
Wallace finished the 2020 Cup Series season with a career high five top-five finishes. He also earned his best points finish in Cup competition, 22nd. After 112 starts for NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty, Wallace will move to 23XI Racing. The new Toyota Racing team is co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin.
Other nominees for the Pocono Spirit Award included Wood Brothers Racing for their work supplying electronic tablets to retirement facilities during the COVID-19 shutdown; Josh Williams for his hospital tours to benefit critically ill children; and both Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex for establishing the Sherry Strong Innovative Medicine Oncology Clinic in Charlotte, N.C.
The NMPA Pocono Spirit Award is presented annually since 1992. Pocono Raceway sponsors the award.
Corey LaJoie won the award in 2019. Other winners include Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and both Kyle and Pattie Petty. More recent winners are Corey Lajoie, Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex.
Featured Photo Credit: Harold Hinson / Harold Hinson Photography