CONCORD, N.C. — Up to this point, Bubba Wallace was having a remarkable NASCAR Cup Series playoffs by advancing to the Round of 12 when many said he and the No. 23 team wouldn’t even make the playoffs this year. However, following a 16th-place result on Sunday (Oct. 8) at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, his playoff hopes came to an end after he missed the cut by 17 points.
Wallace entered the ROVAL on the wrong side of the cut line, trailing Brad Keselowski by nine points for the final transfer spot into the Round of 8. Never known as the greatest road racer, the narrative surrounding Wallace entering the ROVAL was that he might be an easy out. That changed once cars hit the track for the first time Saturday morning.
Wallace put down the fastest lap from either Saturday morning practice session, then followed that up with a fourth-place qualifying effort, making it very clear the No. 23 was going to be a force to be reckoned with on Sunday.
Needing points, Wallace stayed on the race track at the end of both stage one and two to get stage points, passing up the opportunity to keep track position by short pitting before the end of the stage. Wallace gained nine stage points by virtue of a second-place result in the first stage, and gained another four points with a sixth-place result in the second.
From that point on, everything started to go south for Wallace. After restarting stage two deep in the field, Wallace struggled in traffic to pick his way back to the front like other frontrunners such as teammate Tyler Reddick.
Later on in the final stage, Daniel Suarez made contact with Austin Cindric on a restart, which sent Cindric spinning into the backstretch chicane, and the No. 2 collected Wallace in the process. NASCAR then deemed that Wallace never came to a stop after missing the chicane, and that he had to make a stop on the front straightaway despite the wreck.
From that point on, it was an uphill battle for Wallace, and ultimately, a 16th-place result was not enough for Wallace to advance to the next round. When reflecting on the day, Wallace made sure to note of his own mistakes that contributed to the eventual elimination.
“I knew we had our work cut out for us,” Wallace said. “We gave up a lot of points last weekend. What I look at is the last restart at Texas, I look at how I put ourselves in a situation to get wrecked today, so I need to work on that and be better.”
Despite being eliminated, Wallace was still happy with the team’s performance overall, even if they didn’t get the results they were seeking.
“Just a bummer,” said Wallace, “But a lot to be proud of, can actually focus on the positives out of here, qualified fourth, top of the board in practice, stage points, you know, so it’s a really good day. Hard to hang your head over that.”
Wallace was specifically frustrated with the incident on the backstretch and the rule in place that required him to stop on the front straightaway despite getting spun out by another car. When asked about it, Wallace voiced his displeasure toward the entire situation.
“Honestly, it’s such a B.S. rule,” Wallace said. “I lost so much track position and I didn’t completely come to a stop, but I got blown through the chicane, so I thought I’d just keep my momentum up and get back going, fall back in line, and you can go race it out from there. But we had to stop on the frontstretch, and we’re the only series that does that ass backwards, so not surprised.”
When asked if it’s time to re-evaluate the rule, Wallace said, “They don’t care. They love the entertainment factor and screwing somebody else.” He later added, “I need to work on that, put ourselves in better spots to not get wrecked, I’m honestly surprised no one’s walked up and said sorry, that’s kind of bulls–t.”
Going forward, the main goal for Wallace in the final four races is simple: win. In the end, it was a solid effort for Wallace and the No. 23 team, and despite being eliminated, they still have plenty to hang their hat on. They made sure the world knew they were here, but ultimately will have to wait until next season to make it one step closer to a championship.
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