Bubba Wallace hung out with the Southside, and the Southside hung out with him — figuratively. Yet, thousands attended Wallace’s Bubba’s Block Party at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Washington Park.
“Having people come out to such a historical place and have a great time. Sounds like a good night for a party,” said Wallace.
It’s one of the key events preceding the inaugural NASCAR Chicago Street Race. Everything, from the food trucks and activities to the entertainment and host site, was chosen for one purpose: to spread the word about NASCAR to communities of color and other groups not traditionally inclined toward the sport.
“This gives them a chance to come out and just enjoy their time to get some experience of what NASCAR is about. Hang around me, see my pit crew perform but just learn more about the sport and see how inclusive it actually is.”
Wednesday night on the Southside, Wallace’s pit crew staged a performance. Adults and children enjoyed racing simulators. Kids ran remote-controlled cars around a poster-sized track surface. Barbers gave out free haircuts.
Pioneering Chicago Hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco performed select hits from his expansive discography to close the evening.
But for Wallace, perhaps the most successful African-American NASCAR driver in history, it was his chance to be among the people. That he was for this night, walking the entire infield of the event and stopping every 30 to 40 feet to take selfies with dozens of people and give out autographs.
He joined in as his pit crew performed on a demonstration vehicle among many onlookers. Wallace headed to a booth to sign Bubba’s Block Party T-Shirts to hand out to fans — old ones and those who became new ones that night. The man seemingly walked every inch of the event space to interact with people, especially young ones.
“My hat’s off to NASCAR for coming here into the heart of the community and showing our kids what they can be,” said DuSable Museum President and CEO Perri Irmer.
Irmer said Bubba’s Block Party allowed youths to see that there are more ways to become part of a sport like NASCAR than just being a driver.
“To have Bubba and NASCAR here, and for the kids to be able to come out and see what goes into stock car racing,” she said, “The pit crew and the marketing folks, the event folks and the vendors and the designers of the cars, the scientists and physicists who talk about the aerodynamic qualities of the car, all the different fields of study, all different career options that our kids now can be aware of. I think it’s just amazing.”
Here are some snapshots from Bubba’s Block Party: