NASCAR, motorsports approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

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FILE - In this March 24, 2019 file photo, NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski greets fans during driver introductions prior to the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va. Keselowski didnt get the finish he hoped for last weekend of April 4, 2021, when NASCARs Cup Series ran on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway, but the 2012 champion didnt dwell too long on his 11th place finish. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. – Bubba Wallace says get the shot, like he did.

Brad Keselowski says he hasn't decided yet whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19 while Austin Dillion and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott say it's a personal choice and no one else's business, though Dillon's Richard Childress Racing team did host a voluntary vaccination clinic on site for employees and their families.

Throughout motorsports, which has long prided itself on face-to-face access for fans and glad-handing time with sponsors, approaches to stifling the spread of the coronavirus that has cost the sports world billions still vary greatly. In IndyCar, teams are pushing toward 100% vaccination.

But in NASCAR, with a fan base traditionally more conservative in its Southern strongholds, it is the rare driver who touts vaccination.

One of the few is Wallace, driver of the new-this-year 23X1 team co-owned by NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and NASCAR star Denny Hamlin. Like RCR, 23XI had a mass vaccination day at its shop for employees and their families. Wallace also partnered this week with Novant Health to address the hesitancy some have to getting vaccinated; after CNN showed him receiving his jab, the 27-year-old Wallace said he's trying to lead by example.

Wallace is the only Black driver in NASCAR's top series, and the Black community has been especially hard hit by the pandemic, which has claimed more than 561,000 lives in the United States alone.

“I'm not trying to shove it down people's throats," Wallace said Friday. “I'm just saying, `Hey, I'm comfortable taking this route to get us back to a normal capacity in all aspects of life.'”

Wallace's former boss, retired great Richard Petty, filmed a promotion showing him getting vaccinated, but few others have taken such steps.