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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Max Siegel speaks out about Bubba Wallace, diversifying NASCAR

Max Siegel says Bubba Wallace is almost like a son to him.
Credit: AP
Driver Bubba Wallace takes a selfie with himself and other drivers that pushed his car to the front in the pits of the Talladega Superspeedway prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega Ala., Monday June 22, 2020. In an extraordinary act of solidarity with NASCAR’s only Black driver, dozens of drivers pushed the car belonging to Bubba Wallace to the front of the field before Monday’s race as FBI agents nearby tried to find out who left a noose in his garage stall over the weekend. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

INDIANAPOLIS — Bubba Wallace started learning about race car driving as a teenager thanks to his mentor who now considers him like family.

“He is almost like a son to me,” said Max Siegel, Rev Racing owner.

Siegel recruited Wallace at 15 years old for a reality show to introduce minorities and women to the racing world. The program aired on Black Entertainment Television, taking the racing world by storm. It was perfect for Wallace, who grew in love with the sport even more and realized right away the responsibility that came with being on Reality TV.

“At a young age, he embraced this added responsibility, not only representing the African American community but being a part of history,” Siegel said.

It was an historic move because you rarely even saw minorities at the race track, let alone on television race shows.

Shortly after NASCAR’s sole Black driver persuaded the organization to ban the Confederate flag at races, Wallace became the target of racist comments. Then there were reports of a noose left in his racing garage. Since then, it’s been revealed that the rope in the garage may have been there since last fall.

Bubba Wallace (43) wears a "I Can't Breath, Black Lives Matter" shirt before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Hampton, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The FBI completed it’s investigation at Talladega Superspeedway determining Wallace was not the target of a hate crime. Agents concluded through photographic evidence that a garage pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned in the garage since last October.

"On Monday, fifteen FBI special agents conducted numerous interviews regarding the situation at Talladega Superspeedway. After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed. The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week.

Still, many fellow drivers remain standing and support Bubba Wallace as NASCAR’s only African American driver. That comes as no surprise to Siegel, who himself has worked to diversify NASCAR.

“There were things in the sport that I knew we as African American people that we were not aware of, so I was pretty passionate about creating those opportunities," Siegel said.

RELATED: FBI says noose found in Bubba Wallace stall there as early as Oct. 2019

RELATED: IMS not surprised by NASCAR ban on Confederate flag

NASCAR's move is directly tied to the George Floyd movement around the world towards inclusiveness. Siegel believes it’s just the beginning of forever changing the NASCAR fan base.

“That unfortunate situation really created the voice and people unifying in a way to say enough is enough,” Siegel said.

Siegel believes the unity we're seeing in NASCAR will spread across the entire sports world — one more reason he continues to encourage Wallace.

“He has incredible family support, which includes a mother who has his back. I just tell him to stay true to who he is,” Siegel said. “He is very convicted and compassionate about this and as they've been saying, it's not a moment, it's a movement."

Siegel also works on growing the racing world's minority fan base and is convinced, just like Bubba Wallace, it's an experience you'll never forget. Siegel shared with 13News that in his almost 20 years in the racing world, he has never taken anyone to a race event who didn’t have a great time.