This is the Daytona 500 from the Sky: A multi-part series from For The Win looking at NASCAR’s biggest race of the year from an aerial perspective.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The first time NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. went skydiving, he landed inside the track at Daytona International Speedway.
Three days before the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500, the No. 43 Chevrolet driver jumped in tandem out of a plane, thanks to race sponsor, the U.S. Air Force. Although he said they missed their mark near the 2.5-mile track’s start-finish line by about 50 yards, they still comfortably landed on the grass.
“When my first foot went off , that’s when I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this,’” Wallace told For The Win. “We did a flip out, and I got it all together and we were doing it.”
Wallace — who will start 11th in the Daytona 500 in his Richard Petty Motorsports car — said it was particularly helpful to have someone else, his partner Randy, attached to him and leading the way as they jumped.
“He didn’t force me out, but he was controlling the motions,” Wallace said.
“He started walking, and the next thing you know, we’re off the back of the plane. At that moment right there, I was beyond scared. But it went from nervous to scared to this is awesome in a matter of two to three seconds.”
For about 45 seconds, the 26-year-old driver entering his third full-time Cup Series season said he was free-falling at what felt like 100 miles an hour. But then they pulled their parachute at about 5,000 feet and cruised down into the race track.
It took them about 10 minutes to reach the ground.
“It’s the same view you have if you’re sitting gin a commercial jet looking out the window,” Wallace said about looking down at the track from the sky.
“But everything’s starting to get bigger and bigger, and the next thing you know, it’s like, ‘Oh man, we’re right over the race track.’ So it was cool.”
Wallace said the Air Force is always asking him what fun things he wants to do with them, but he doesn’t always know what’s on the table.
He’s flown twice in fighter jets — For The Win did too this week — he said, and would definitely go skydiving again.
“It was a ton of fun, really cool experience,” Wallace said.