After a tumultuous week where Bubba Wallace admitted that he has been battling depression and false rumors were sparked that there were major changes coming to his Richard Petty Motorsports team, Wallace finally had reason to smile after NASCAR’s All-Star Weekend, but understandably, all the 25-year old driver could muster were tears after what was probably the most complete race weekend of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Wallace finished runner-up in the opening Stage of the Monster Energy Open after a photo finish with William Byron, but he would not be denied in Stage 2. Wallace willed his No. 43 car, and even roughed up Daniel Suarez to secure his place in the All-Star field. After so many bad days and tough times since an emotional second-place finish in the 2018 Daytona 500, Wallace broke down after an embrace by his long-time friend Ryan Blaney, who congratulated Wallace for making his first All-Star Race.
“I want to say, damn you Ryan for coming over here and making me cry,” Wallace said with emotion. “I appreciate the support from everybody. This has been tough. Damn I’ve been feeling like a failure for a really long time. I didn’t give a damn out there. I love Suarez to death but he knows what’s on the line. I gave away that first stage — no Hemric gave away that first Stage — and damn we needed this. I needed this. It’s been tough. I haven’t gotten to chug a coke, this isn’t victory lane, but damn this Coke tastes good.”
The emotion didn’t end there for Wallace. Not only would he make it into the All-Star field, but he would go on to finish an impressive fifth in the event. Wallace finished ahead of four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions (Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch) in the process.
Although, Wallace had more fun than he’s had in quite some time, he says that his team was lacking a little something to have a car to contend for the race win.
“I had it wide open on that last restart and when those guys pulled away, I knew we were done,” Wallace explained. “It’s just a different class, a different animal when you get up there. I had tons of fun tonight. I honestly haven’t had this much fun in a long time. It’s been a struggle, but it was a big night for us. When you don’t have anything on the line, I guess it means something different.”
For Wallace, Saturday night was a pivotal sign that he needs to keep pushing, even when things on the track look bleak.
“The first thing my mom said to me after the Open was ‘You know who that was? That was God. He’s not giving up on you yet’. I’ve realized that. As many dark moments that I’ve had and telling myself to give up, it’s been really tough. It’s been tough to keep coming in and keep going. Tonight just shows that I’ll be back next week,” said Wallace.
Wallace will look to keep the momentum going in NASCAR’s longest race — the Coca-Cola 600. Despite not recording a top-10 finish through the first 12 races of 2019, there is now hope that the No. 43 can make it to the front. That’s all Wallace needed was a little hope.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.