KANSAS CITY, Kan. – While Bubba Wallace earned his much anticipated debut victory in the NASCAR Cup Series last fall at Talladega, Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway was a validating stamp toward his doubters.
For those who may have voiced doubt or opinions on the matters of winning a rain shortened race, Wallace, for all intents and purposes, was a genuine contender throughout the Hollywood Casino 400.
Starting from the sixth position, Wallace tallied finishes of fifth and fourth in Stages 1 and 2.
No doubt, Wallace showcased the strong speed from his 23XI Racing ride as evident throughout the summer races. Moreover, the 28-year-old Mobile, Alabama native looked like a confident veteran stock car racer in the No. 45 ROOT Insurance Toyota Camry.
Prior to Wallace’s drive to the front, Sunday’s race was marred by a rash of nine caution periods totaling 43 laps and a few, significant Playoff contenders.
Trouble found Kevin Harvick for a second straight week when he hit the Turn 4 wall on Lap 34. As a result, the 2014 Cup champion placed 36th.
Not long after, Tyler Reddick hit the Turn 2 wall on Lap 68, ending a promising afternoon in 35th.
Kyle Busch, who placed seventh in Stage 1, spun off Turn 4 and into the frontstretch grass on Lap 140. The two-time Cup champion was relegated to a 26th place finish.
With 68 laps remaining, Wallace took the lead from Alex Bowman, the dominant driver of Sunday’s race. Other than a pit stop cycle between Laps 215 to 224, Wallace would not be denied his second career Cup win.
In fact, during the final laps, Wallace and his No. 45 team kept things relatively light and quiet on the radio.
There would be no final lap obstacles or doubts casting over Wallace’s mind.
Not even a fast, dogged Denny Hamlin could deter Wallace from the mission at hand. By all means, Wallace wanted this victory in his clutches.
Wallace owned the moment and earned his second Cup win with confidence, determination and authenticity.
Despite missing this year’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field, Wallace celebrated his latest victory with gusto. Emotions were released and the Drive for Diversity graduate soaked in his achievement with his No. 45 crew.
“Man, just so proud of this team, so proud of the effort that they put in each and every week,” Wallace said. “Just thankful for the opportunity, right? Took this jump from an idea two years ago from a text from Denny before it all even happened. He was ready to get the deal done. Appreciate him. Appreciate MJ, Curtis, Gene.
“Everybody on that side of things, everybody at 23XI. Men and women there, they work their tails off. Just so proud. Pit crew was awesome today. We had one loose wheel. Just thankful. Thanks for the opportunity, and thankful to shut the hell up for a lot of people.”
Naturally, Wallace wanted to let his critics know where he stood with his latest victory in relation to their thoughts of last fall’s Talladega win. Beyond that, it was about shifting his mental perspective and easing into the moment above all else.
“Been doing this for a really long time. I haven’t won a race like that in a really long time, but just knowing getting excited is going to mess you up, so it was just cool, calm, and collected, and here we are,” he shared.
Perhaps Wallace’s win at Kansas may stand out more for the popular racer especially with who he bested to the stripe.
“I knew Denny (Hamlin) was going to be strong,” he said. “That’s the things I look at, is he wasn’t that good at the beginning of the day, and he comes up and finishes P2. And that’s what I want to start doing.
“When we don’t have the best days, just capitalize on moments like that. It’s cool to beat the boss, but man, we were just lights-out today once we got to the lead, and it was a lot of fun.”
Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers
Bell-Blaney-Truex Jr.-Stenhouse Jr.-Wallace/Elliott-Ky. Busch-Chastain-Logano-A. Dillon
Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers
Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Top 10 Finishers