KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace acknowledged covering up depression “for many years” before breaking down in tears during a media session ahead of Saturday night’s race at Kansas Speedway.
The 25-year-old Wallace has struggled throughout his second full season at NASCAR’s top level, his best finish coming in 17th at Martinsville. The iconic No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports sits 28th in the standings, a long way from being in week-to-week contention.
Wallace was talking about the challenges facing the team Friday when he said, “You try to be the best you can and sometimes it ain’t damn good enough.” He later admitted to experiencing “depression and everything with it,” and that he has kept it hidden in part by getting into a car.
“I’ll be damned,” Wallace said quietly, his blue hat pulled low over his eyes, “It all goes away when you get behind the wheel. It’s 16 years of driving. It helps. But it’s tough.”
It was at that point Wallace said, “I’m on the verge of breaking down. And I am what I am.” He then quietly buried his face in his hands and wept.
“It’s been a rough moment for a while,” admitted Wallace, an Alabama native and the only black driver in NASCAR’s top level. “Just trying to do everything I can.”
Wallace is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, one of the reasons he has become a favorite among many fans. Tears also flowed after he finished second in last year’s Daytona 500, which remains his only top-five finish in 51 career Cup Series starts.
There have been signs for a while that Wallace had been struggling beyond the track, though the results surely haven’t helped. Normally upbeat on social media, Wallace posted in a pair of tweets this week that he hasn’t “been in a good place for some time now.”
Accompanying a montage showing Wallace joking, tweeted: “Ha. With a laugh and smile like this every week you’d think there is no way one could mask so much negative and dark (poop). Lonely dark roads ain’t fun, keep on keeping on I guess.”
He did acknowledge Friday walking through the stands after Monday’s race at Dover and hearing people shouting their support. He said that was an uplifting moment following a difficult weekend.
“They were just shouting my name,” Wallace said. “A frustrating weekend, but going through the stands, it was nice. It was nice to see all the support and love.”