Bubba Wallace Cruises To Kansas Cup Series Win
Bubba Wallace, leading a career-high 58 laps, controlled the final leg of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway and earned his second career victory.
The 23XI Racing driver ended a 32-race winless streak, beating owner Denny Hamlin in stride. His first win came last October in a rain-shortened race at Talladega Superspeedway.
“What are they going to say now?!” Let’s go!” Wallace said on his team’s radio after taking the checkered flag, referring to those who tried to downplay his opening win due to the rainy circumstances.
But on Sunday, Wallace won under nearly cloudless skies.
Wallace took the lead for the final time with 43 laps to go at the end of a green-flag pit cycle. Neither Hamlin nor Christopher Bell, who finished third, ever came within a second of Wallace for a challenge.
Alex Bowman, who led a record 107 laps, was fourth and Martin Truex Jr. was fifth.
Wallace first took the lead for the first time on lap 200 with a pass from Bowman. He would keep it until the green flag pit cycle.
Wallace completed a Kansas Speedway sweep for 23XI Racing after teammate Kurt Busch won the spring race at the 1.5-mile track. With Busch out indefinitely recovering from a concussion, Wallace finished the season using Busch’s No. 45 as he entered the owner’s points playoff.
“Man, so proud of this team. So proud of the effort they put in every week,” Wallace told NBC Sports in the front stretch.
Wallace’s win came after the first half of his season was plagued with numerous pit road errors, which led to a crew swap with the Bell team.
On Sunday, Wallace ran in the top 10 for most of the race after starting sixth. Then, on a mid-race warning, Wallace had to stop a second time for a loose wheel. Wallace then methodically crossed the field again before passing Bowman to take the lead.
“The pit crew was awesome today,” Wallace said. “We had a loose wheel. Just grateful. Thanks for the opportunity, and grateful to close the hell out for a lot of people.
Of beating his team owner, Wallace said Hamlin “wasn’t so good at the start of the day, and he comes in and finishes P2. And that’s what I want to start doing. When we don’t have not the best days, just capitalizing on times like that. It’s cool to beat the boss, but man, we were just off today once we got into the lead, and it was a lot of fun.
The 23XI Racing driver observed that it had been a while since he had won a NASCAR race so convincingly.
“I’ve been doing this for a really long time,” Wallace said. “I haven’t won a race like this in a very long time, but just knowing the excitement is going to mess you up, so it was just cool, calm and serene, and here we are.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 11, 2022
Wallace is the second non-elimination driver to win in the playoffs so far, following Erik Jones’ victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. It’s the first time in NASCAR’s post-season era that the first two races haven’t been won by a playoff driver.
Hamlin has now finished second in both playoff races, which have been filled with attrition that has plagued quite a few playoff drivers.
“It was a good day overall. Still frustrated on the first half of the race. We just don’t execute very well,” Hamlin said. “I almost wrecked to catch him (Wallace) out of (Turn) 4. I got loose and hit the fence. I drove as hard as I could. Nothing will ever be free when you drive for me. If you think I’m gonna let you win, you better get another job.
William Byron, Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson followed Truex in fifth position.
The highest-ranked Ford playoff driver was Ryan Blaney, who was also the highest-ranked Ford car overall in ninth place.
“We were fine,” Blaney said. “We got through the peloton quite decently at the start and finished second in the first stage. I was proud of the progress we made. I had to go down pit road there after stage one and kind of had to reset at the back. From there, we just weren’t good enough to get back into the top five. I was chasing it and adjusting the car after that. All in all, not a bad day. It was a good points day and we’re looking pretty decent for Bristol. We’ll just have to go and have a good day.
While Tyler Reddick started from pole, he quickly lost pole to Joey Logano on the opening lap. But Alex Bowman would round Logano to take the lead with an outside pass as they entered Turn 1 on Lap 3.
The race was uneventful until the competition warning on lap 25, with Bowman leading ahead of Reddick, Logano, Bell and Wallace. The 25 laps led by Bowman before the break were by far his best in a race this season.
Reddick regained the lead on pit road, moving ahead of Bowman and Logano.
After the ensuing restart, positions three through five spent about two laps basically running fours every once in a while. This culminated on Lap 32, coming out of Turn 3, Kevin Harvick was pinched by Ross Chastain and Wallace as they came out of Turn 4, causing Harvick to slam into the outside wall.
Suspension damage from the incident ended Harvick’s day. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver entered the race last on the playoff grid. He now has two DNFs through two playoff races and three consecutive DNFs overall, a first in his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“When those two cars got in front of me, I got super tight,” Harvick said. “When I lifted it, it snagged and came loose. I just didn’t expect them to come in and my car to be so tight.
On the restart of Lap 39, Blaney moved into second place and spent the next five laps pressing Reddick for the lead.
Misfortune would strike Reddick on Lap 66. As he raced through Turn 2, his right rear tire failed, sending his #8 Chevrolet into the wall, forcing caution. The No.8 would change tires and send Reddick for a cautious lap before returning to pit road. Unfortunately, the damage to Reddick’s right front was too extensive for the team to repair in time, ending his day.
—NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 11, 2022
“The right rear tire just popped like we had a few times,” Reddick said. “At Fontana (Auto Club Speedway) I was able to save him. But here he broke at the worst possible point and we just killed the wall. He broke the control arm in the front right, so our day was over, we leave here with few points, so we will have to fight at Bristol (Motor Speedway).
During the pit stops, Austin Dillon took two tires and went out first ahead of Bell, Chastain, Blaney and Wallace. Bowman would also take two tires, but exited seventh after Chase Briscoe prevented him from making a clean exit.
On the restart with nine laps to go in the stage, Dillon lost the lead to Bell. Driver Joe Gibbs Racing would hold off Blaney to take the stage win.
The top 10 after 1 stage: Bell, Blaney, Truex, Stenhouse, Wallace, Elliott, Busch, Chastain, Logano and Dillon.
Under the warning, Michael McDowell only took two tires and was the first out of the pits ahead of Bell, Blaney, Truex and Wallace. Meanwhile, Aric Almirola stayed out and took the lead for the restart on lap 87.
Blaney and Wallace each had to make a second stop for a loose wheel, forcing them to start from behind.
Almirola quickly lost the lead on the restart and on lap 88 Truex passed McDowell to take the lead. Three laps later, the warning came back when Ty Gibb’s #23 Toyota was turned into the outside wall by Corey LaJoie as they exited Turn 2. The damage was enough to earn Gibbs his second DNF in career.
On the restart that followed, Truex quickly took the lead as Stenhouse moved into second. But on lap 110, Stenhouse lost his right rear tire and went into the outside wall, prompting the warning.
Under caution, Truex was the first off pit road. But he would quickly go back and forth to secure a wheel. This gave Byron the lead for the restart, only for caution to return before the field was clear of Turn 2. A multi-car wreckage broke out involving Harrison Burton, LaJoie, Erik Jones and Almirola. Both Burton and LaJoie were eliminated.
Several cars are involved in a restart incident.
Caution is out.
—NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 11, 2022
The next playoff driver to run into trouble was Kyle Busch. With 28 laps to go in stage two, his #18 Toyota broke away coming out high on Turn 4 and slid into the infield grass.
Busch would finish 26th.
“I just got really loose and it broke around me,” Busch said. “Then I got some damage going through the grass. Kind of ruined the rest of our day, but it was all that happened in that pit stop that made us pull back to recover. in traffic there. Tried to make an adjustment to the car to make it faster and it made it faster, but definitely made it looser.
After two playoff races, Busch is now the first driver under the cutoff line. He is two points behind Austin Cindric.
The four drivers outside the top 12 are Busch, Dillon (-3), Briscoe (-9) and Harvick (-35).
—NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 11, 2022
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