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Recommended: RACE: Bubba Wallace on Netflix

Driving for a Black owner, NASCAR’s only Black driver’s tumultuous 2021 season is recounted.
  • Bubba Wallace in Race: Bubba Wallace. (Photo: Netflix)
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    RACE: Bubba Wallace | Netflix
    Sports docuseries (6 episodes) | TV-14

    What's RACE: Bubba Wallace About?

    The 2021 season of Darrell Wallace Jr., aka Bubba, is chronicled through multiple lenses, including his personal life, competitive challenges role and budding activism as NASCAR’s only Black driver.

    Who's Involved?

    • Bubba Wallace - Racing prodigy who rose quickly through motor racing’s feeder system and has been driving for NASCAR teams since 2018.
    • Desi Wallace - his mom and number-one fan, who gives us a lot of the biographical background that her tight-lipped “Bub” would rather not.
    • Denny Hamlin - co-owner, with Michael Jordan, of the 23XI team and driver for Joe Gibbs Racing — which means he’s both Wallace’s boss and competitor. (Jordan, NASCAR’s first Black primary team owner, isn’t much of a presence in Race.)
    • Kyle Hall - Wallace's manager and longtime friend.
    • Amanda Carter - Wallace’s fiancee.
    • Michael Strahan, Jemele Hill and W. Kamau Bell - expert witnesses who testify to what Wallace has meant to NASCAR.
    • Steve Phelps - the change-minded president of NASCAR.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Race isn’t just an engrossing and surprisingly suspenseful docuseries about an elite athlete trying to get to the top tier of his sport. It’s also a great intro to racing and NASCAR, including a clear-eyed look at its rebel-flag-waving past. The sport has seen better days, with declines in TV ratings and attendance, and has made a lot of changes in recent years. But is a woke Black driver the kind of change NASCAR wants?

    Told in the classic Netflix docuseries style — get ready for that back-and-forth timeline graphic! — details about Wallace’s biography and the sport of racing are revealed as the 2021 season progresses. Tension comes from problems both on and off the track. And then there’s that whole drop-the-mic moment, when the 23 car of Wallace shows up in Martinsville, Va., wrapped in black and sporting a huge Black Lives Matter logo. As W. Kamau Bell notes, “Now you’re defined by that stand, and you better be good.”

    Like a Heisman-winning quarterback thrown into the NFL pressure cooker, Wallace expects to win. And when he doesn’t, and he’s out front with his race views, “it’s a totally different level of pressure,” as his mom astutely points out.

    We won’t spoil the ending for those who don’t keep up on NASCAR, except to say Bubba does win a race. Wallace’s hypercompetitiveness and tough-guy attitude are accented on one side by Hamlin — who defines what it takes to win in NASCAR — and softened by his mother and friends.

    Pairs well with

    • The Last Dance (Also streaming on Netflix), and not just because Michael Jordan’s in both. It chronicles another historic season and puts it in a larger context.
    • We Need To Talk About Cosby (Showtime), because we can’t say enough good things about W. Kamau Bell as a social observer.

  • RACE: Bubba Wallace
    Premieres Tuesday February 22, 2022 on Netflix.
    Starring: Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Richard Petty, Desi Wallace, Amanda Carter, Steve Phelps, Michael Strahan, Jemele Hill, and W. Kamau Bell.
    Directed by: Erik Parker.

    TOPICS: RACE: Bubba Wallace, Netflix, Amanda Carter, Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin, Desi Wallace, Erik Parker, Jemele Hill, Kyle Busch, Michael Strahan, Richard Petty, Steve Phelps, W. Kamau Bell