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Despite Speed, Wallace Facing First Round Elimination

Bubba Wallace before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Through no fault of his own, Bubba Wallace enters Bristol with his back against the wall.

Through one race and one stage at Kansas, Wallace and the No. 23 team had done everything they needed to do to advance as the No. 16 seed.

After rallying from a spin to finish seventh at Darlington, Wallace unloaded at the track he won at the previous year with another fast car. He went from tenth to finish the opening stage in second.

Then came the flat tire, where Wallace got in the wall on lap 109 with the same right rear tire failure that has regular season champion Martin Truex Jr. on the outside looking in.

Wallace lost multiple laps for repairs despite still having speed, ultimately relegating the Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota to finish 32nd, four laps down. Unlike Truex Jr., Wallace has no playoff points, meaning the Mobile, AL, driver sits 19 points behind the transfer spot.

For Wallace, who starts ninth, the approach is no different than any other week.

“We’ve just got to have a good, clean day,” Wallace said, according to Frontstretch. “We can’t get caught up in looking at the finishing results already. We just have to get through today, qualify well. We know it’s going to be a track position race.”

Wallace has only been in the driver’s playoffs once, making the inaugural 2016 Xfinity series field. He made it to the second round, where ran in the top-five at Phoenix needing a win to make the championship, before a wreck on lap 149 ended his chances.

One thing working to Wallace’s advantage is the fact his teammate, Tyler Reddick, locked his way into the next round after winning last week at Kansas.

This means that all the attention in the 23XI Racing shop has been focused on getting their other driver onto the round of 12.

“We’re definitely going to show them support,” said Billy Scott, crew chief of the No. 45 after Kansas. “We’re going to be standing behind them. We’re going to be pumping them up and reminding them that they can do this.”

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