Bubba Wallace Says His Mom — and 2 Crashes — Inspired Him to 'Take Better Care' of Himself (Exclusive)

"I never was a big proponent of working out and doing all the necessary things. I was just like, 'I'm good,' " the NASCAR star tells PEOPLE

Bubba Wallace admits he was "never a big proponent of" doing all the "necessary, little" things to take care of himself daily.

Now, the NASCAR star tells PEOPLE he's loving the results of his newfound self-care methods.

After wrecking out in Atlanta and at the Circuit of the Americas in back-to-back weeks, Wallace tells PEOPLE, "I was just super hard on myself, and I had a lot of people reaching out, obviously."

Wallace says it can be a challenging emotional rollercoaster to "have good moments" and then, "right there at the end, something takes you out," which the driver believes set off "a slump" that set the team "back pretty far."

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty

However, in the last seven weeks, Wallace says, "I got my crap together" after a motivating text message from his mom. "My mom, my dad and my sister all sent me messages," he says.

"My mom's message said, 'If you want things to change, you need to change yourself.'"

He admits, "I never was a big proponent of working out and doing all the necessary things. I was just like, 'I'm good.'"

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Wallace agreed with his mother, however — and he's been working on making "positive changes" to all aspects of his life for the last seven weeks. "It's been really good, I did a Peloton ride last night, 45 minutes."

He explains, "So whatever it may be, trying to eat better and just do things a little bit better. Taking care of myself better, and it's been good."

Related: Bubba Wallace Becomes the First Black Driver to Win a NASCAR Cup Series Race in Almost 60 Years

Other small ways Wallace takes better care of himself in his daily routine include drinking more water, spending time with his dog and eating better.

"I'd always get out and my back would be really shot after a race, really stiff and just tense. It would last for three or four days. It'd be reset by the next weekend. I've noticed doing some core workouts and just strengthening up your back, that timeframe has gone down to two days," says Wallace, who admits he previously "needed assistance getting out of the car" before he implemented new wellness practices. "It's just eating better, working out and just getting mentally stronger," he says.

John Bazemore/AP/Shutterstock
John Bazemore/AP/Shutterstock

Another practice Wallace is working on targets his tendency to "be really hard on" himself, he says. "I'm always combative with myself mentally each and every moment. I'm going to go play golf after I finish up here and that is the absolute worst place where I am the hardest on myself."

Wallace, whose car will be decked out at key races courtesy of his partnership with Dr Pepper, adds, "I've just been really hard on myself and I really set the expectations high, and I hold myself to that level. I think that's okay, but you got to manage the expectations at certain times."

Related: Bubba Wallace Says Dealing with Racism as a Young Race Car Driver Motivated 'Me to Do Better'

Chris Graythen/Getty; Isaac Brekken/Getty
Chris Graythen/Getty; Isaac Brekken/Getty

Driving for Michael Jordan's team, 23XI Racing, has given Wallace a champions' mindset, that motivates "all of us to be better," he says.

"It's a lot of work. I think our team's motto is meetings, meetings, meetings, but that just gets us prepped for what's ahead."

Wallace says having Jordan, 60, at the races is "always fun" and even when the NBA legend isn't present at the track, he makes himself available to his team. "You always have a text before the race and the text after the race," from Jordan, says Wallace. "He's invested 1000% and it makes a difference."

In partnership with 23XI Racing, Dr Pepper will once again be decking out Wallace’s unmistakable #23 race car throughout the season, and will also surprise a lucky few racing fans with a signed LTO can. Only 175 limited-edition cans were created.

Wallace says he appreciates how Dr Pepper has supported 23XI Racing as a team from the beginning, and he's always impressed by the brand's "fun initiatives" to connect with fans. "Dr. Pepper's been here since day one, starting this new team with 23XI racing, and making the most of it and trying to be different from others. It's just super cool to work with them."

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