Bubba Wallace named NMPA Pocono Spirit Award winner

The National Motorsports Press Association named Bubba Wallace as the winner of its 2020 overall NMPA Pocono Spirit Award on Monday.

The award, whose quarterly and overall recipients are determined by NMPA members, honors character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship, and contributions to motorsports.

Wallace’s efforts to help NASCAR become more inclusive during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement turned him into a new mainstream figure for the sport.

He played an important role in NASCAR’s outright ban of the Confederate flag from its events, which took effect last June 10.

That night, Wallace ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports entry at Martinsville Speedway that featured the words “Compassion. Love. Understanding.”

Thanks in part to his exploits, Wallace became one of Google’s top trending searches in the U.S. in 2020. He is now preparing for his first season with 23XI Racing, a new Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and sports icon Michael Jordan.

“In a year of ups and downs, what we were able to accomplish off the race track as a sport is something that is special and a proud moment for me,” Wallace said in a release.

“I didn’t set out to become an advocate this year, but as things were happening around our country, I found myself in a position to use my voice and push for change. I’m proud of what we accomplished, but we still have work today. Thanks to the NMPA and all of their members for this honor.”

Quarterly winners of the NMPA Pocono Spirit Award in 2020 included Wallace; Wood Brothers Racing for supplying electronic tablets to senior citizens on lockdown in retirement facilities; Xfinity Series driver Josh Williams for his hospital tour program that benefits critically ill children; and Martin Truex Jr. and his partner, Sherry Pollex, for establishing the Sherry Strong Innovative Medicine Oncology Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina.