Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Bubba Wallace Gains Confidence by Advancing to Round of 12 in Playoffs

Bubba Wallace NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12 2023 Bristol Motor Speedway Night Race
Bubba Wallace defied the odds and advanced to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with a 14th-place finish in the Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: Jonathan McCoy, Racing America

As he crossed the finish line for the final time in Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bubba Wallace had secured a 14th-place finish. As the race ended, the driver let out a massive scream on his team’s radio.

The driver, and his No. 23 23XI Racing team were elated. And rightfully so. They found a way to persevere, and they are now moving on to the Round of 12 in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

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“We’re supposed to be out of this motherfucker, but we’re still in it,” Wallace shouted to his team as he performed his cool-down lap on the track.

Wallace is right. He was supposed to be out in the Round of 16.

Not many had the fiery 29-year-old making it through the opening round of the Playoffs, and even fewer had him penciled in after disaster struck last weekend at Kansas Speedway, while he was running in the second position.

It looked, truly, like his hopes had faded.

However, his crew chief Bootie Barker played the perfect strategy in the opening Stage of the race, which netted Wallace a third-place finish and eight valuable points. That boost of points in Stage 1 set the tone for the rest of the evening, and by the time the checkered flag was waving, Wallace had given his most staunch detractors a reason to reign boos down upon him. He had succeeded.

“God, I love that shit, right there,” a teary-eyed Wallace stated as boos cascaded down from the Bristol Colosseum. “Counted us out. Like Coco Gauff said, ‘All they’re doing is adding fuel to the fire.’ I love it.”

Wallace says he is at peace with where he and his 23XI Racing team are right now, and he has personally enjoyed a career year. He just wishes his family was there with him in Bristol to celebrate on Saturday night.

“I love where I’m at on this team. I wish my mom, dad, and my sister were here to celebrate with me,” a winded Wallace stated. “I’ve had a career year, just got to keep it going. Appreciate all of the partners involved.”

While Wallace had put some points in the bank, and he was fortunate that defending series champion Joey Logano suffered a misfortunate crash on Lap 262, advancing in the Playoffs was never a sure-fire result all race long. He had to stay after it, and on the closing run of the race, the handle on his No. 23 Toyota Camry was about as bad as it had been all race long.

In the closing laps, Wallace showed displeasure on his radio with how he was being raced by runner-up finisher Kyle Larson. After the race, Wallace said the ordeal was simply a racing deal, where both drivers thought the task they were attempting to accomplish was the most pressing task of the race.

“Yeah, I’m running my own race, and I don’t know. I’m pretty sure [Larson] thought he could go catch [Hamlin], that’s a tall task. But what I had on the line, I thought was more important, and what he had on the line he thought was more important. That’s racing. All good,” Wallace said.

At the end of 500 dizzying laps around the 0.533-mile bathtub, which serves as a racetrack, Wallace admitted that he was spent.

“I’m mentally exhausted. I’m wore out,” Wallace said, as sweat dripped from his brow. “[We] Gave it our all, there. Battled hard and executed. That’s what you have to do. We know next week is a reset. Just have to go out and have some fun and work our asses off. Thank you to the ones that believe in me. Keep it going.”

Keep it going is what Wallace will try to do next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is an award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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