As season begins, Bubba Wallace is under pressure to perform

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. meets with the media Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte (Greg Engle)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. is under pressure this season—and not just the sort of natural butterflies a driver feels when he suits up and climbs into the cockpit before a race.

Wallace is racing in the face of unknowns, trusting that a strong performance in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford will prolong his tenure in the car.

A graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and the first African-American driver since 1963 to win a race in one of NASCAR’s national series, Wallace has sponsorship from defense company Leidos for the first six races of the season, and he’s hoping for more.

“We’re in kind of a little tight spot here,” Wallace said on Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We’re trying to figure out the rest of the game plan, but our goal is to be at Homestead for the season finale and win the XFINITY Series championship.

“We just have to overcome some obstacles, get over a couple hurdles to get to that point, but we will be at Daytona. We’ve still got the same mind-set of going in to win every race, do the best we can each and every weekend and put ourselves in the right position, especially with this new (race structure and points) format. I’m going to really enjoy it.”

Wallace finished seventh in the 2015 XFINITY standings but slipped to 11th last year, even though he qualified for the inaugural playoff in that series. Wallace expects to raise the level of his performance this season—in part because he has to.

“Coming into this pre-season right now a lot of changes have been made, a lot of personnel changes, a lot of key people have been moved around,” Wallace said. “I still have Seth (Barbour), my crew chief, behind me.

“We’ve reformatted our team a little bit, and I think we have a great team going into this season.  Like I said earlier, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity we have.”