Thursday , 17 October 2019

NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace Tests Out All Things Air Force

Race car driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. is only 24, but he’s already made his mark on the NASCAR world. On Wednesday, he made his mark on the Air Force as well.

Wallace visited Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, to meet with members of the 4th Fighter Wing and the 333rd Fighter Squadron to get to know some of the service members he’ll be representing during the Coca-Cola 600 race over Memorial Day weekend.

Horsepower Meets Air Power

It's what's under the hood that counts – #AirPower 🛩💪🏽Bubba Wallace witnessed firsthand what that means as he visited the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina as part of NASCAR orientation day for drivers who will be honoring the U.S. Military at the #CocaCola600.

Posted by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Wednesday, May 9, 2018


The original plan was to have Wallace catch a ride in an F-15E Strike Eagle. Unfortunately, he came down with an ear infection, so he wasn’t cleared to fly in the fighter jet. But the Air Force rearranged its plans for him, and he was still able to see some amazing things.

Wallace started his day watching as security forces demonstrate how they react to an active shooter situation, clearing a building to get as many people out as possible. Military and local first responders were on hand for the drill, too – something that surprised Wallace.

“It’s a military base, and they still call the police and get dispatch out here when they have the biggest guns on base to take down a shooter. I thought that was interesting,” he said.  “It was incredible to see the response time and how fast they’re here to be able to eliminate the threat.”

Next, he went to the combat arms training and maintenance shop, where he shot an M4 carbine, an M9 handgun and a shotgun. “Nothing could top that,” he said of the experience.

Bubba Wallace shoots an M9 handgun. DoD photo by Steve Ellmore

Afterward, it was time get decked out in a flight suit and a G-suit, which aviators wear when they’re subject to high levels of acceleration. This was Wallace’s third time in a flight suit, which he said is similar to his NASCAR racing suit – both are flame retardant, but he liked the flight suit better because it was much lighter.

“This is skin-layer versus our two-layer. Ours are pretty heavy,” he said.

Wallace gets help to fit into a flight suit. DoD photo by Steve Ellmore

Since he wasn’t flying, Wallace got to take the suit off before heading out to the flightline with the air crew, ground crew and pilots to see the F-15 up close. He climbed up to the cockpit, where an expert on each section of the plane explained all of the parts of the aircraft. He then watched as the jet taxied out to the runway.

“I got to fly with the Thunderbirds [in an F-16C Fighting Falcon] a couple of years ago, so seeing the F-15 up close was really cool, as well as being able to climb inside the cockpit and see the differences between the two planes,” Wallace said.

He compared that flightline experience to racing.

“It’s very similar to what we do. It’s like us walking out of our motor homes to climb into race cars. They’re walking out of their offices to fly in a fighter jet, which is probably 10 times more badass than what we do,” he said to laughter.

Next, Lt. Col. Chris “Pepe” Auger, the 333rd’s commander, gave Wallace a command coin in exchange for a signed Charlotte Motor Speedway flag and a replica of the Air Force flag that flies at the racetrack.

The group had a delicious lunch of Carolina barbeque after that, and Wallace got to meet and chat with some of the airmen at the base. While this wasn’t his first experience spending time with service members, he said he’s always happy to do it, whether it’s in preparation for a holiday or not.

“It’s not just about Memorial Day. Every day we should give thanks and remember those who fought for us. So, for me to be able to do that and carry that Air Force logo and that badge of honor on me throughout the whole race season is really cool,” he said.

Fun fact: Two of the four fighter squadrons at Seymour Johnson are specifically for training. They’re the only training squadrons in the world for the F-15E Strike Eagle.

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