Premiering Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, E60’s latest special shares the story of NASCAR star Bubba Wallace. Last year, Wallace captured more headlines when a noose was found in his garage stall at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He emerged as a leading voice for racial justice, successfully urging his sport to ban the Confederate flag.
“Fistful of Steel – The Rise of Bubba Wallace,” reported by ESPN’s Ryan McGee, explores the history of race within NASCAR and presents an unprecedented personal account of the sport’s only Black driver at his pinnacle.
Front Row spoke with co-producer Mike Farrell about the feature, an emotional excerpt of which is seen in the video above:
What about the production of this E60 feature made it different than others you’ve produced?
This project has been one of the best examples of teamwork that I’ve ever been a part of at ESPN. My co-producers John Minton and Lauren Stowell were each integral to the documentary. Lauren is a NASCAR junkie who has been covering Bubba since 2011 and opened us up to a whole world of incredible material she had shot over the years.
What’s also been important on this production is the involvement of diverse voices in the feedback process, not just from within E60 but across the company. With race being a central pillar of the narrative, we involved the ICC [ESPN’s Inclusive Content Committee] and many other colleagues to ensure we struck a balanced, honest, and accurate tone.
You know his name … but not his story.
The most polarizing driver in America like you've never seen him before.
Fistful of Steel: The Rise of Bubba Wallace
Coming December 14th pic.twitter.com/jzCGktRnj4
— E60 (@E60) December 2, 2021
You’ve doubled as producer and editor on this piece – does that make seeing the finished product even more satisfying?
I’ve been editing my own material, on and off, for about a year and a half now. This is by far the biggest project I’ve tackled. Doubling as producer and editor is equal parts invigorating and intellectually exhausting, but in the end, it does make the end product more satisfying, and I have grown by leaps and bounds as an editor by going through this process. Editing your own stuff can be lonely at times; you really miss the collaborative experience of working with another person but having John Minton always a text or phone call away when I was wrestling with a section was extremely valuable and necessary.
What do you hope viewers take away from this feature?
A much more complete picture of Bubba Wallace, the person. He’s definitely a name every sports fan knows, but I think most casual fans know nothing about him, and there are a lot of unfortunate misconceptions out there about him. His journey has a lot of compelling layers to it, and in his interview, he was refreshingly candid, emotional, and at times, even defiant. As a result, I come away from this project with a deeper respect for Bubba Wallace, the human being, and I hope the documentary has the same impact on those who watch it.
Andy Hall contributed to this post