Don’t look now, but Bubba Wallace is really starting to nail down some truly impressive finishes as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads down the final stretch of the 2019 season. Wallace, 25, had another great outing in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway.
To say Wallace’s Saturday didn’t start off on an ideal note would be an understatement. Wallace’s No. 43 car was one of two cars (the other being JJ Yeley’s No. 52) to fail post-qualifying inspection. As a result, Wallace had to forfeit his 30th-place starting position at one of the tracks where track position is most critical.
Wallace would start from next-to-last in 37th.
On a night, where several big names struggled, including a few Playoff contenders, Wallace shined.
In the opening Stage of the race, Wallace would struggle initially. He would fall a lap off the pace and when the green and white checkered signaled the end of Stage 1, Wallace was mired in 29th.
However, during the Stage break Wallace and his team opted to play a bit of strategy. They stayed on the track, while the majority of the field pitted. This allowed the No. 43 team to take a wave around to get their lap back. Like that, Wallace passed nine cars and gained a lap just by not pitting.
Just 11 laps into Stage 2, the caution would come out for a spinning Alex Bowman. This would give Wallace a chance to stay on the lead lap and get fresh tires to get back on sequence with the leaders.
Wallace would be a fixture inside the top-20 for the entire second Stage, but with the leader Kyle Busch running a feverish pace, Wallace would drop a lap down yet again.
As Stage 2 was drawing to a close, Wallace was locked in a tight battle with Joey Logano and Michael McDowell for the lucky dog position. Just as the checkered flag was coming out for the end of Stage 2, Wallace squeaked by McDowell. Wallace was back on the lead lap yet again.
Wallace would start the final Stage in 17th.
For the third time in the race, Wallace would lose a lap to the field, but shortly after Martin Truex Jr. — who was leading the race — would go for a spin after a hit from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Wallace, yet again, was back on the lead lap.
Wallace would stay there the remainder of the event, and he would reel in the top-15 down the closing stretch of the race.
The Alabama native would move into the top-15 on lap 337, and by the time he reached the finish, he would work his way past the sport’s Most Popular Driver — Chase Elliott — to secure a 13th-place finish.
After the race, it was found that Erik Jones’ No. 20 car failed post-race inspection. As a result, Jones — who finished fourth — was disqualified. This moved Wallace to a 12th-place finish.
It was a hectic night, but Wallace drove it like a cagey veteran. He never gave up and he was rewarded with his third top-15 finish over his last five starts. During this incredible stretch, Wallace has an average finish of 15.4.
What was looking like a lost season just weeks ago, is now showing vast improvement for Wallace and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.