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Final two episodes of ‘Bubba Wallace: Behind The Wall’ Facebook Watch series released

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The seventh and eighth (and final) episodes of the Facebook series “Bubba Wallace: Behind the Wall” were released today and it capsulizes Wallace’s run-up to the Daytona 500, including the Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway in Episode 7 and his first Daytona 500 appearance and ultimate runner-up finish in Episode 8.

Among the highlights of Episode 7, called “Embrace It”:

* On “black driver” continuing to be an identifier among the media to describe him: “A lot of media outlets, their headline is ‘black driver’ or ‘African-American driver.’ And fans are getting tired of that.

“So I was letting them know that, look, I’ve accepted it – and I know almost every story you call up is going to start with that – embrace it and carry on back with your day.

“I’m going to be labeled. It’s going to happened, so it’s all part of it, so just enjoy it, sit back, embrace it, so when you look back at it 10 years from now, you want to make that image look good.”

* He wrote “Daytona 500” on his shoes to remind himself that he was there. It was kind of his way of pinching himself that all this was really happening to him.

Then he said about being in the 500, “I’m just glad to be here. I’ve worked real hard to be at this level and it all just starts right now, you know?”

* Showed him visiting sick kids in a hospital on Valentine’s Day. Said Bubba: “I do think I made some new fans, I definitely think they’re going to be cheering on purple (for sponsor Click n’ Close). Everybody loves purple.

“I love visiting the kids. It’s something special that if anybody has the time to set aside to do this, to give back, it’s so special for the kids to be able to just enjoy it all. They have idols and people that they look up to and want to be like some day, so for me, I’d like to be that person.”

* He has a humorous exchange with best friend and fellow driver, Ryan Blaney, after last Thursday’s Can-Am Duels. Blaney shakes Wallace’s hand, prompting Bubba to quip, “Thanks, dog, wash your hands after.” To which Blaney responds, “What, did you just poop?” Wallace replies, “No, I’m sick.”

* One of the more poignant conversations captured on film include this exchange between Wallace and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer before the Can-Am Duels:

Bubba says: “About time (he can’t wait to get racing).”

Replies Drew: “It is, it is. This is the easy part, just do our deal. This will be the start. Whatever happens tonight is not going to define us. But it will be the start of a big ball of momentum to get rolling here.”

* Blaney won the Duel, Joey Logano snuck by Bubba to finish second, with Wallace a close third.

When Wallace climbed out of the car, team owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty gave him a big hug, saying, “You done damn good.”

When Wallace got into the Daytona media center, he said of Petty: “I just had a bodyguard walk me from the car to (the media center), and his name was Richard Petty.

“I have never seen him that excited before. That was the coolest thing, him coming up, huge hug, his sunglasses were off, and that was so the highlight of the night. It was one of these full-wrap (hugs) and then walked with (his arm around Wallace) all the way (to the media center).

“… I feel like we had just won the race, as proud as he was.”

Click here for the full Episode 7.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

And then there’s the final episode of the series, titled “My First Daytona 500.”

Among its highlights:

* Bubba on the eve of the Daytona 500: “The 60th running of the Daytona 500 is tomorrow, my first Daytona 500. Got through this whole week, going to bed knowing I’m waking up for the biggest race of my career.”

* Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer giving Wallace pre-race advice and the team’s commitment to him on the parade laps: “We will claw and scratch and fight our ass off for you all day long. We know you’ll do the same for us. And at the end of the day, we’ll take what we get.”

* His mother, Desiree, admits she’s a “nervous wreck” before the race.

* As he goes around the racetrack during pre-race introductions, a group of fans are screaming, “Bub-ba, Bub-ba, Bub-ba!” To which Wallace replies, “Did y’all hear any boos? I didn’t hear any boos. Damn right, I didn’t hear any boos. (That’s) before the race starts though. We’ll see how many we get after the race.”

* Just before Wallace took a phone call from Baseball Hall of Famer and fellow Mobile, Alabama native Hank Aaron, wishing him a good race, former NFL player Charles Woodson stopped by to say hello and poignantly added, “Keep breaking down barriers. Good luck.”

* Wallace’s final comments before the race: “This is the Daytona 500. All of a sudden, the mood just gets amped up. It’s a physical race, it’s an emotional race, I finally get to experience it all. Pretty special.”

* There’s an emotional scene almost halfway through the episode when his girlfriend and mother are concerned about Bubba in one of the late big wrecks. Blickensderfer asks him if he’s okay, and Wallace replies with a quip, “Yeah, but by drawers aren’t.”

* Wallace wasn’t sure where he finished, so he asked Blickensderfer. “P2, P2.” To which Wallace and his girlfriend seemed to reply at the same time, “Holy (expletive).”

* The best part of the episode starts with about six minutes left, the post-race segment. He hugs Richard Petty and refers to him as his “grandpa,” talks to the fans and then starts crying in the media center. “I’m just so excited to be where I’m at today,” Bubba says. “It’s an incredible opportunity for a 24-year-old who just goofs off and happens to drive race cars for a living.”

Then, with tears in his eyes, he says, “I try to play tough guy most of the time, keep my emotions to myself, but man, there was just so much leading up to this moment, there was just a lot riding on us. I think it was all the pressure that was there finally hit me.”

Bubba then has a very touching moment with his mother, both crying their eyes out, where he tells her, “You act like we just won the race!”

During the post-race press conference, Wallace says to himself, “Pull it together, bud, pull it together. You just finished second. It’s awesome.”

Another poignant moment by Wallace afterward late in the episode: “Holy (expletive). We just finished second in the Daytona 500. That just hit me now. That’s so cool, my phone is going to be blowing up – and I didn’t even win the race.”

* One thing Wallace did not address in the final episode was his post-race tete-e-tete with Denny Hamlin.

* Click here to watch Episode 8.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Who is hot and cold entering Cup elimination race at Kansas

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After a wild finish Sunday at Talladega, the Cup playoffs chug along this weekend with the second playoff elimination race.

The series heads to Kansas Speedway, where the playoff field will be cut from 12 to eight drivers.

Here’s a look at the drivers – playoff eligible and not – who are on hot and cold streaks entering the weekend via Racing Insights.

Who is Hot

Aric Almirola
• Won at Talladega (4th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 1 lap led); passed Kurt Busch in Turn 4 on final lap when Busch ran out of gas.
2018 Season-Good
• Advances to Round of 8 for first time in career
• Ended a 149-race winless streak
• Finished in top 10 in 3 of last 5 races
Kansas-Good
• Finished 9th in back-to-back Kansas races, including May
• Started 25th, 17th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, finished 9th in this race one year ago; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

Joey Logano
• Finished 5th at Talladega (5th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2)
2018 Season-Very Good
• Finished in top 10 in 3 straight races and 7 of last 9
• Finished in top 5 in 2 straight races and 5 of last 8
Kansas – Hot and Cold
• Last 5 Kansas races: Finished 3rd twice and 3 finishes of 21st or worse
• Finished in top 5 in 7 of last 10 Kansas races (2 wins)
• Started 17th, 22nd in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, finished 21st in this race one year ago; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

Clint Bowyer
• Finished 2nd at Talladega (2nd in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Good
• Finished in top 10 in 3 of last 4 races and 4 of last 6
• Last 8 races: 5 top 10s and 3 finishes of 23rd or worse (2 DNFs)
Kansas – Terrible
• One top 10 in the last 10 Kansas races (9th in May 2017)
• Started 9th, 14th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, finished 19th in this race one year ago; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

Denny Hamlin
• Finished 4th at Talladega (8th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Great in round 2
• Finished in top 5 in the last two races of 2018
• Finished in the top 5 in both races in the round of 12 after failing to finish in the top 10 in any of the three races in the round of 16
Kansas – Good
• Finished 5th in back-to-back Kansas races
• Last 8 Kansas races: 4 top 10s and 4 finishes of 15th or worse
• Started 4th, 3rd in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 5 laps led, finished 5th in this race one year ago; penalized for speeding entering pits on Lap 163 while running 1st

 

Who is Cold

Brad Keselowski
• Finished 27th at Talladega (34th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, 21 laps led); pit on Lap 41 from 6th due to a loose wheel; pit for fuel coming to green in overtime
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished 14th or worse in the last three races
Kansas – Bad
• Last 7 Kansas races: 4 top 10s and 3 finishes of 13th or worse (14th in May)
• Finished 13th or worse in 3 of last 4 Kansas races
• Started 10th, 11th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 18 laps led, finished 13th in this race one year ago; penalized for speeding entering pit on Lap 163 while running 3rd; penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 239 while running 7th
1.5-mile tracks – Too early to tell
• Won last the 1.5-mile race at Las Vegas (opening race of playoffs)

 

Ryan Blaney
• Finished 29th at Talladega (6th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2, 6 laps led); pit for fuel coming to green in overtime
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in 2 straight races and 3 of last 4
• Last 13 races: 6 finishes of 7th or better and 7 finishes of 11th or worse
Kansas – Very Good
• Top 10 in four of the last six Kansas races, top 5 in three of the last five
• Started 40th, 4th in Stage 1, 8th in Stage 2, 3 laps led, finished 3rd in this race one year ago; qualified 3rd but had time disallowed

 

Kyle Larson
• Finished 11th at Talladega (22nd in Stage 1, 33rd in Stage 2); started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments; spun from 11th on backstretch on Lap 104 with flat tire
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in the last three races of 2018
• Last 9 races: 4 finishes of 7th or better and 5 finishes of 11th or worse
Kansas – OK recently
• Finished top 10 in two of the last three Kansas races
• 29th or worse in four of the last six Kansas races including two DNFs
• Started 13th, 38th in Stage 1, 39th in Stage 2, finished 39th in this race one year ago; DNF – pit from 3rd on Lap 65 with engine issue; lost engine on Lap 77 while running 37th

 

Ryan Newman
• Finished 25th at Talladega (12th in Stage 1, 34th in Stage 2); pit on Lap 75 from 22nd with loose wheel; involved in multi-car accident on last lap
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in 4 straight races and 8 of last 10
Kansas – Very Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 4 straight Kansas races (30th in May)
• DNF in 3 straight Kansas races
• Started 18th, 13th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2, finished 33rd in this race one year ago; DNF – penalized for speeding entering pits on Lap 176; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

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Preliminary entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Kansas

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NASCAR returns to the Midwest this weekend for its second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second-round elimination race Sunday.

The Xfinity Series begins its second round Saturday.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 entries.

Kyle Weatherman is entered in StarCom Racing’s No. 99 Chevrolet. It would be his fifth start for the team this season.

Kevin Harvick won at Kansas in May from the pole, beating Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. This race last year was won by Truex from the pole. He beat Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 42 cars entered. Two cars will not qualify.

Angela Ruch, niece of Derrike Cope, is entered in RSS Racing’s No. 38 Chevrolet. It would be her second start of the year.

Bobby Earnhardt, son of Kerry Earnhardt and grandson of Dale Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Dodge. It would be his first start of the season.

There is no driver attached to J.P. Motorsports’ No. 55 Toyota.

Last year, Christopher Bell won his first career Xfinity race after passing Erik Jones with four laps to go.

Click here for the entry list.

Bump & Run: Which drivers will not advance to Round of 8?

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Brad Keslowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman enter Kansas outside the transfer spot to the next round. Who are the four drivers you think will not advance this weekend at Kansas Speedway?

Nate Ryan: Probably these four. Blaney and Keselowski could advance on points but will need to run well and get some major help from those above the cut line. Larson and Bowman will advance only by winning, and the odds of that are only realistic for Larson.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski. Kyle Larson was strong at Kansas in May and should provide a valiant run but he’s in essentially a must-win situation and it will be hard to beat Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. at that track.

Daniel McFadin: Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson.

Dan Beaver: Blaney, Larson and Bowman effectively need a win to advance and they have not shown enough consistent strength on the 1.5-mile tracks to get that done at Kansas. Keselowski and Truex have – and after two frustrating weeks, they will do enough to get into the next round. That leaves Clint Bowyer as the odd man out. Kansas may be his home track, but it has not been particularly welcoming since 2013.

After nearly winning at Dover and then winning at Talladega, how do you rate Aric Almirola’s championship chances?

Nate Ryan: Still fair to middling. He will likely run well at Texas and possibly Phoenix but Martinsville (three top 10s in 19 starts) will be a challenge.

Dustin Long: Better than it was two weeks ago but still not among the favorites.

Daniel McFadin: 65 percent. Phoenix and Kansas are among his top nine tracks in average finishes, but he’s finished in the top 10 at Texas once and Homestead twice (in 2010 and 2012). Almirola hasn’t finished in the top 10 at Martinsville since 2014.

Dan Beaver: Almirola has not been able to sustain momentum for very long in 2018. Unless he wins at Kansas, he’ll enter Round 3 with less than 10 bonus points and that is going to make it difficult for him to advance. Almirola’s odds of winning a championship are low.

Do you rate Aric Almirola’s title chances better than any of the Big 3 drivers? Why or why not?

Nate Ryan: No. It still seems better than 50-50 odds that Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all advance to the championship round, partly because of their playoff points cushion but also because the five remaining tracks (three 1.5-mile ovals) lay out well for the trio.

Dustin Long: Still a gap between the Big 3 and the rest of the playoff field.

Daniel McFadin: Less. Kevin Harvick is the biggest threat at Phoenix and he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 there in the last 10 years. And with 1.5-mile tracks in the form of Texas, Kansas and Homestead, you have to believe the Big 3 are the favorites regardless of how well Almirola is doing.

Dan Beaver: Almirola had a couple of strong runs at Homestead with Richard Petty Motorsports including a fourth in 2010. He has only three top-fives this year – none of which came on 1.5-mile tracks. He won’t be able to outrun Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch in the finale.

What did you think of the Talladega race?

Nate Ryan: It was unlike anything at that 2.66-mile oval in nearly a half-century – look no further than the 15 lead changes being the fewest since 1973. Based off fan and driver reaction, NASCAR assuredly will take steps to improve the stability of the cars for a return to pack racing and nonstop drafting in 2019.

Dustin Long: An unusual race because of rule changes this season that made the cars so hard to drive. At the end it was still the same Talladega — chaos.

Daniel McFadin: It was by far the most fascinating Talladega race in recent memory, despite the fewest lead changes in a Cup race there since 1973. Seeing the Stewart-Haas Racing cars pull ahead of the field by at least a dozen car lengths at times was an echo of plate races there when Y2K was a threat. I’m completely game for a superspeedway race where the field isn’t one giant blob that’s only broken up by large crashes.

Dan Beaver: I’ve learned to never be surprised by anything that happens at Talladega. The four-car domination by the Stewart-Haas drivers was interesting, but it wasn’t very entertaining to watch. 

NASCAR America: Only one playoff win for the Big 3

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The Big 3 of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to win 17 of the first 23 races this season.

Since then, they have one victory in the last eight.

Busch has the only playoff win among the Big 3. He led the field to the checkers at Richmond, but that is not representative of his recent results. During Round 2 of the playoffs, he has recorded an average running position of just 11.95. Martin Truex Jr. has been worse in that regard with an average running position of 16.70.

“Those numbers are not as eye-popping as we saw from this trio earlier in the season,” Nate Ryan said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Especially I look at Kyle Busch. … This is a guy who had one good race – the race he won at Richmond – through the first half of the playoffs.”

Busch and Harvick still have a substantial advantage in playoff points to ease their path to Homestead. Busch has 55 playoff points; Harvick has 53. But Truex was made painfully aware last week that his 38 playoff points are not a sufficient safeguard. He spent much of the Talladega race below the cutoff line in terms of points-as-they-ran.

Equally disturbing for the Big 3 may be that parity has returned to the series.

The five playoff races have been won by five different drivers – all of whom are in championship contention. Brad Keselowski won at Las Vegas, Busch has his Richmond win as a highlight, Ryan Blaney won on the Charlotte Roval, Chase Elliott won at Dover and Aric Almirola won last week at Talladega.

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