Bubba Wallace off to solid start in 2020

Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP

By Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway might have been only the second race of a long 2020 season, but Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace is looking pretty good.

Rain over LVMS on Saturday cancelled qualifying, per the NASCAR Rule book the starting grid for Sunday’s race was set based off the 2019 Owner’s Points Standings. As a result, Wallace’s No. 43 Coke Energy Chevrolet rolled off the starting grid in an unfavorable-27th position

In the early going, Wallace ran a smart race wrapping up the first and second stages scored in 27th and 22nd, respectively.

When the final caution flew for Ross Chastain’s spin with five laps remaining, Wallace’s Crew Chief Jerry Baxter made the call to keep his driver out instead of pitting like others did. The result paid huge dividends for the team as Wallace drove like a wily veteran during the wild restart earning a career-best finish of sixth place on a 1.5-mile track.

“There were frustrating moments over the radio just trying to make this Coke Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE better,” Wallace said. “I know how I lose my cool a little bit, but one of the main reasons I brought Jerry Baxter in was to calm me down and show me that light at the end of the tunnel.

“Every time I fired back, he said, ‘I get it, you’re fine, we’re going to be fine’ and he was right. It was a good call by the team and everyone involved.”

A duo known for their winning combination in the NASCAR Truck Series, the reunion of Wallace and Baxter is doing as intended for driver, crew chief and team.

Jerry Baxter named as crew chief for Bubba Wallace

Wallace departed Daytona with a 15th place finish and followed that up with his sixth-place result at Las Vegas, his fifth top-10 finish in NASCAR Cup Series competition.

“We had a shot at a good finish, and we capitalized on that,” said Wallace. “It was a good day and a win for Richard Petty Motorsports. It was a good gamble call.”

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