I wasn’t supposed to be a fan of NASCAR.
And I certainly wasn’t supposed to be a NASCAR columnist for the past 15 years in this cool corner of the motorsport internet. I spent my formative years in England, steeped in the tradition of Formula 1. Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, and fellow Britons Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill were my original driving heroes.
NASCAR, or actually the NTT IndyCar series, wasn’t meant to be in my sports world (although it’s already massive — come on, Gunners).
But as it so often happens, life takes you down strange paths you would never have expected, and when I took a job in advertising working for Sprint sports sponsorship back in 2005, it was sold to me as an NFL in the first place with maybe 10% of the job. Daily being NASCAR.
Turns out 10% was closer to 90%, so I had no choice but to throw myself into the world of driving fast and turning left. The first race I watched happened to be won by Kyle Busch (who was in the news quite a bit this week), his first victory driving a #5 Kellogg’s Chevy Rick Hendrik at Auto Club Speedway.
I won’t lie, I hated every agonizing second with a burning passion. But, since this was my job, I watched it again next week, then a week later and so on, and as I learned the nuances, I slowly and relentlessly began to fall in love. And just for the record, the first creative work I developed was a retirement announcement for Rusty Wallace.
Over the years since I’ve immersed myself in motorsports and beyond, but there are two drivers in particular I’ve worked with for the long haul: on the IndyCar side was Will Power and on the NASCAR side was Bubba Wallace. So, although we as columnists remain neutral and objective in our assessment of the sport, last Sunday (September 11th) was a day I particularly enjoyed.
I’ll start by force. The flawless 41-year-old from Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia claimed his second IndyCar title eight years after his first in 2014. For Power, it was a year of total consistency and maximizing his racing results. .
“The approach was going a lot in the long game, making sure we finished every lap, every race and that I was very consistent,” said Power.
Power also topped the series in the podium (nine) and average finish (5.9) even taking one checkered flag at Belle Isle. The wins are great for sure, but the lack of poor finishes has been the hallmark of this tournament – think Matt “The Robot” Kenseth pointing his way to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2003.
The Force also broke the legendary Mario Andretti’s record for first places. His 68 (and counting) in 268 starts is an impressive 25.3% clip that speaks to Power’s ability to put together one lap at lightning speed, but it’s somewhat ironic in a season in which he broke Mario’s record for his title by running all laps . And not just fast food on Saturdays.
When I worked with Will he was in the early stages of his career (2011-2014). He’s won 12 races over three seasons, including the sixth best of his career in 2011. We used to run win ads on USA Today and basically had to be ready every week with a print ad ready to go Monday morning, and that was his voracious appetite. For checkered flags.
Personally, Power was a great human to hang out with on set or pick up other ad related content. The Australians and the British have always been lively banter and it didn’t matter because I was the ads guy and he was the race car driver, he was always just “two guys” giving each other a sweet sigh, which speaks volumes a lot about down-to-earth he’s human.
I was also there at the end of the season at Auto Club Speedway in 2012 when Power had a 17-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the final race. He looked, for all intents and purposes, poised to win his first championship but spin and wreck offline while seeing the Hunter-Reay Power finish finished 24th and an agonizing second in the championship.
The little story told about the night was that Team Penske had actually managed to fix Power’s faltering ride and get it back on track – a job Marty Snyder told me was one of the most impressive repair jobs he’d ever seen – but by then a little too late. All that said, I am delighted that Power will win a second title and when he finally lifts his driving gloves, he will rightly be remembered as one of the true greats in IndyCar.
On the NASCAR side, Sunday was a noteworthy day for Wallace as he scored a second dominant cup win at Kansas Speedway. It’s also worth noting that in the seven or more decades of NASCAR, only 138 drivers have scored two or more wins at a higher level. This is a beautiful elite group. I worked with Bubba as part of DoorDash’s sponsorship, so I was there for his transition from Richard Petty to 23XI Racing which was definitely a thrill to watch behind the scenes.
As with Power, I did spend some time with Wallace (albeit less than usual since it happened during the early stages of the pandemic). On the morning of the race, when DoorDash was the primary paint scheme, we did 30 minute feature Zooms with groups of loyal fans and Bubba was always entertaining, always engaging and never ignoring any question.
In those moments, far from the bright lights of the path, I was able to see what a really warm, funny, and kind human being is. And frankly, I find the hate being thrown in his way despicable. It’s ridiculous, it really is. I realize there is not much I can do to change that, but I very much hope in time that attitudes towards it will change. He’s an excellent human being and not a bad driver either. Hopefully there will be more upside for Wallace and Bauer.
Subscribe to the Frontstretch Newsletter
Daily email update (Mon-Fri) providing race news, reviews, features and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
Share this article