Chain of friendship helps Wallace through Speedweeks

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 23: Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #43 NASCAR Racing Experience Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23, 2018 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

HAMPTON, Ga. – Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace are close friends, dating to their pre-adolescent days racing Bandoleros at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are close, too. So when Earnhardt perceived Wallace might be feeling the stress from all the attention he was receiving in the lead-up to the Daytona 500, he made a call to Blaney.

“I think it was right when I got down to Daytona, maybe Friday (before qualifying), and I was watching quarter-midget races over there in the infield, and Dale Jr. gives me a call,” Blaney said on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“He was like, ‘Hey, I need you to go call Bubba and calm him down, because I think he was getting really overwhelmed with all the media and the pressure that was kind of being bestowed upon him and we haven’t even got started yet.’”

Blaney had a conversation with Wallace, trying to relax him and advise him not to be bothered by all the distractions.

“It’s a good thing that he’s getting recognized in all forms of TV and entertainment and media and didn’t see it as pressure – (saw) it as a well-deserved opportunity that he got.

“But I think he dealt with it really well and he proved that Sunday when he was able to kind of put all this behind him and just go out there and race.”

Indeed. Wallace finished second to Austin Dillon in the 500. If anything, the media attention has increased exponentially since then.

“I think he did a really good job of dealing with everything on the track and off the track, and I’m pretty proud of him for that,” Blaney said.