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Kickin The Tires

Bubba Wallace rebounded with Top-10 finish at Bristol

Photo by Barry Cantrell / Harold Hinson Photography

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Richard Petty Motorsports and Bubba Wallace found a little redemption with a top-10 finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE first broke into the top-10 after Wallace stayed on track. Crew chief Jerry Baxter moved the famous No. 43 onto a different strategy in the Food City Presents the Supermarket Heroes 500. On the first run of the alternate strategy, Wallace dropped down to 15th on track.

The second time was in the final 50 laps. Wallace battled with Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, and eventual race winner Brad Keselowski for position. On a restart with 35 laps to go, Keselowski pushed the 43 into the corner. That forced Wallace into Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang. The contact set off a chain reaction accident involving Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., McDowell, Erik Jones, and Ryan Newman.

Two more cautions saw Wallace bounce between the inside and preferred outside lane. On the final restart, the Chevy Racing driver was trapped on the inside. Wallace slid back from sixth to 12th. He jumped to 10th, where he eventually finished, following an incident between Chase Elliott and Joey Logano.

“That was hard fought,” explained Wallace. “I am worn-out after that one. That was a good day for our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.”

As Wallace climbed back up through the field, his progress was halted. A pit road speeding penalty on lap 330 sent the No. 43 to the tail end of the field. That was actually the second pit road speeding penalty for Wallace at Bristol.

“There were ups and downs, back and forth,” admitted Wallace. “We have to figure out our pit road speeding. I am 99.999% sure I was way under the limit – just because we got caught the first time, so there was no need to push it. Besides that, we rebounded from those penalties. I overstepped adjusting the car. We were just way out of place at the beginning of the race and our team over-adjusted and came back full circle as the track rubbered-up.”

The 10th-place finish comes after Wallace suffered two consecutive hub failures at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In the Alsco Uniforms 500, he had finished the second stage inside the top-10 prior to the hub failure.

Wallace started the race at Bristol from 36th after a random draw. He quietly and cleanly worked his way forwards and the high-banked concrete track.

The RPM driver found his relatively clean race as a step in the right direction:

“All-in-all, it was a good day at the Bristol Motor Speedway. It was fun there at the end. It was wild – that race had pretty much everything. I have seen a lot of positive comments from fans. That’s Bristol Motor Speedway for you. We will carry some momentum over – finally got a good finish after two bad ones.

“We got the bad juju off our back and we will go onto the Atlanta Motor Speedway! We’ve got some work to do there. I am excited about the speed we’ve been bringing to the track each week. The speed we have been bringing has been good. We need to tweak some things to get us to the next level. We are knocking on the door. We’re doing really good things.”

The 26-year-old suffered minor damage in ‘the big one’ on lap 231. Wallace tagged the right rear of Ryan Preece’s No. 37 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in the chaos. Baxter used the opportunity to bring the No. 43 down pit road for an alternate pit strategy.

The top-10 finish is just the sixth in Wallace’s NASCAR Cup Series career. It also moved him from 23rd to 22nd in the points standings. Wallace is 61-points behind Jimmie Johnson, who holds the cutoff for the playoffs. He is also 204-points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

NASCAR’s next race is the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway June 7.

One Comment

  1. rick

    June 1, 2020 at 6:40 am

    Interesting n insightful reporting…

    i know im biased haha

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