An exhausted Bubba Wallace sat beside his car on pit road, drank fluids and soaked in the precious moment that hundreds of naysayers said he couldn’t get. The 23XI Racing driver had just overcome a 19-point deficit to advance to the round of 16 of the NASCAR Cup playoffs.
“I’m just exhausted,” Wallace said after his 14th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. “I thought Daytona (the last race of the regular season) was stressful, but that (Bristol) was. A lot of people probably called us out for trying too hard and making mistakes, and it was the opposite.
While a crowd of media waited to speak to Wallace, his team co-owner Denny Hamlin celebrated his 51st birthdayst NASCAR Cup win in Bass Pro Shops night race.
Wallace, who had said the front end of his Toyota was too narrow, eventually managed to get up for a few minutes, but then was forced to sit down again on pit road. When asked if he wanted the media to sit down and talk to him, he replied: “No. I’m afraid some of you couldn’t get up.”
Finally, the 29-year-old Wallace stood up to answer questions and admitted it was an emotional moment.
“A couple of times I got frustrated with myself, frustrated with others, but it all worked out,” Wallace says. “This is a special day. I have to appreciate it but I can’t settle.
Wallace cited the decision not to pit early in the race, when the first caution period began before the 100-lap mark in the 500-lap race, as the “turning point.”
“We looked at last year’s race and saw that the tires weren’t a big advantage,” says Wallace. “I thought that was the key and that gave us our buffer.”
Throughout Wallace’s career, he notes there have been many times when he has “beaten himself up” and continuing in the playoffs is important not only for his mindset, but for “the minds of everyone involved with this program.” .
In previous years, Wallace believes he was involved in trying to prove doubters wrong and that got him into trouble.
“When you run for the team and you run for yourself, all these things align,” Wallace says.
The playoffs end for Harvick in the first round
Kevin Harvick’s final NASCAR Cup season was a successful season and in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Stewart-Haas Racing team certainly had an off night.
“We’ve been like this all year,” Harvick said after finishing 29thth, five laps less in the 500-lap race. “I’ve had good days and bad days, but this is definitely the worst I’ve had with bumpers.
“I didn’t have many expectations about the ups and downs of the year. It is what it is and it’s probably what we deserved.”
Truex fights until the round of 16
Regular season NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. found himself in a dire situation after the first two races of the opening round of the playoffs. He entered the cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway seven points under the cutoff line.
However, when the checkered flag waved on the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Truex found that his 19th place was good enough to give him a spot in the round of 16. And, after the points reset with season playoff points added for race and stage wins, Truex is back in a tie for first place with William Byron heading into the round of 16.
“All in all, it was just a night of fighting,” Truex says. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.
“You never really knew what you had to do. The 4 (Kevin Harvick) had a really terrible night. We got too tight, but the track position… we were pretty good there. Once we lose it, just forget it. He was plowing hard, blowing the front right off. There wasn’t much I could do.”
Logano will not defend his title
A six-car crash in the second half of Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway sent Joey Logano out of this year’s playoffs.
The reigning series champion entered the last race of the round of 16 a dozen points above the finish line, but by the end of the first 125 laps he was down to 24th and the night kept getting worse. When the final 250 laps of the 500-lap race began, Logano was 27 years oldthone turn lower.
It was lap 262 that sealed Logano’s playoff fate. After colliding with Erik Jones, Cory LaJoie spun at the end of the backstretch and when he returned to the track, he collected Logano, Ryan Newman, Justin Haley and Ty Dillon in turn three. Logano noted that the lack of speed in his Ford left him in a vulnerable position.
“It’s our fault,” Logano says. “You’re not going fast enough, you’re behind and they smash you in front of Bristol on the restart and you’re going so fast you can’t get up or turn or do anything and you get kind of pile stuck in the wreck.
“You’re behind the wall and for a minute you’re in denial. You don’t want to believe it happened and you want to think it’s fixable, but the car was really wrecked.
Logano says it seems like his Team Penske Ford has been out at every track this year.
“It takes something different for a driver to drive a car in 15th and tonight we weren’t even that,” Logano says. “It’s a little unusual for us right now and we just have to go to work, keep our heads down and stay true to each other, continue to trust each other that we can fix this. It’s still the same team that won the championship last year. We’re a little lost right now.”
NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Saturday 16 September 2023
1. (2) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 500.
2. (36) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 500.
3. (1) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 500.
4. (20) Chris Buescher (P), Ford, 500.
5. (8) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 500.
6. (4) Michael McDowell (P), Ford, 500.
7. (7) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 500.
8. (6) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 500.
9. (3) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 500.
10. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P), Chevrolet, 500.
11. (16) Carson Hocevar(s), Chevrolet, 499.
12. (17) Ryan Preece, Ford, 499.
13. (13) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 499.
14. (9) Bubba Wallace (P), Toyota, 499.
15. (12) Tyler Reddick (P), Toyota, 499.
16. (30) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 499.
17. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 499.
18. (26) Aric Almirola, Ford, 499.
19. (5) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 498.
20. (15) Kyle Busch (P), Chevrolet, 498.
21. (24) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 498.
22. (11) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 498.
23. (23) Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 498.
24. (31) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 497.
25. (10) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 497.
26. (35) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 495.
27. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 495.
28. (32) Harrison Burton, Ford, 495.
29. (21) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 495.
30. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 491.
31. (34) BJ McLeod(s), Chevrolet, 490.
32. (29) Austin Cindric, Ford, 488.
33. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 263.
34. (28) Joey Logano (P), Ford, Accident, 262.
35. (19) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 261.
36. (27) Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 260.
Average race speed winner: 94.99 miles per hour.
Race Time: 2 hours, 48 minutes, 20 seconds. Margin of Victory: 2,437 seconds.
Attention Flags: 6 for 53 laps.
Lead changes: 10 out of 6 drivers.
Lap leader: C. Campana (P) 1-71;C. LaJoie 72-119;C. Bell (P) 120-178;K. Larson (P) 179-198; C. Campana (P) 199-255;T. Gibbs #256-353;D. Hamlin (P) 354;T. Gibbs #355-358;D. Hamlin (P) 359-364;C. Buescher (P) 365;D. Hamlin (P) 366-500.
Leaders summary (driver, lead times, laps led): Christopher Bell (P) 3 times for 187 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 142 laps; Ty Gibbs #2 times for 102 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 48 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 1 time for 20 laps; Chris Buescher (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Phase no. 1 Top Ten: 20,7,23,24,45,1,6,5,19,54
Phase no. 2 Top Ten: 20,54,5,11,42,34,17,24,41,9