Bubba Wallace: Season-best fifth-place finish ‘shows what we can do’


LONG POND, Pa. — After his best run of the season, Bubba Wallace hugged, fist-pounded and slapped hands with crew members by his car Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

Then Wallace walked over to his pit stall and did the same with his pit crew.

Although it wasn’t a win, Wallace’s fifth-place finish was a moment worth celebrating.

The finish marked the first top-10 result for 23XI Racing and came with team co-owner Michael Jordan in attendance.

“He understands,” Wallace said of Jordan’s grounded mindset for the first-year team. “Everybody talks about he’s a winner, he’s a champion, yeah, but he’s also a realistic person.

“He wants to win, for sure, but he knows what it’s going to take for us to get there. It’s more from me. It’s more from the team. It’s more of a group effort.

“He’s in the background watching and enjoying. He’s hooked. Having Michael Jordan hooked to NASCAR is huge and that’s getting a lot of other big names hooked as well and that’s what the sport needs. We’ll keep on doing on our own thing, keep plugging along.”

That aspect of more from the team and Wallace will be key with the second half of the 36-race season beginning Sunday.

Wallace and crew chief Mike Wheeler have said the team has had good cars but execution has been off in races, a reason why Wallace’s average finish was 21.0 entering the Pocono doubleheader weekend.

“Bubba has put a lot on his shoulders of having mistakes or running too hard, running into somebody,” Wheeler said. “A lot of our good cars early in the race would be damaged and he’s like, ‘I got to stop doing that,’ and (co-owner) Denny (Hamlin) would beat him up, too.

“But it’s hard. The moment you don’t have good notes from a certain event, it’s hard to go back with a better race. He’s had to learn. He’s got to learn how to run against these top-end guys all race long, to get that last little bit.

“But we’re working through that. Most drivers don’t come into the sport and make it click right away. They have troublesome years and some races. Again, we’ve had that a lot. This is one of those moments that cold turkey he out-punted his coverage on a fuel-mile race.”

Wallace was set for a good run through the invert after Saturday’s race. He finished 14th Saturday. NASCAR inverted the top 20 for Sunday’s race, meaning Wallace started seventh.

He went on to finish fifth in the first stage. Those were his first stage points since the third stage in last month’s Coca-Cola 600.

Then problems arose.

“It’s so easy to get put in the hornet’s nest here and that’s from 12th to 20th and you’re just rooting and gouging,” Wallace said. “I got into the wall just from getting aero tight – not really anybody’s fault, it’s just a product of racing.

“That kind of put us behind, so we knew we had to pull some strategy. I knew our car was good enough to be top 10 and execute. I didn’t know it was going to come down to a nail-biter with fuel.”

The damage, in a way, proved helpful.

In the second stage, Wheeler went with a fuel only stop on Lap 77 while the crew repaired the damage to the right side of Wallace’s car.

“We knew we wanted to stop (after the end of stage 2) to get four tires and full fuel because we only needed 10 laps of fuel after that,” Wheeler said of the team’s stop on Lap 87. “That would make for a shorter green flag stop in the last stage. With that, we knew we were 10 laps short. (Three) laps (after the green), the caution is out.

“It’s one of those things like ‘take the risk’ because one more caution puts you right in the (fuel) window.”

Wallace made his last pit stop on Lap 94 of the 140-lap race. Wheeler said Wallace was helped being in the middle of the pack at that point because a driver often has to get out of the gas in traffic.

“We knew we were (then) only a couple of laps short,” Wheeler said. “We just had to do extra hard work to save it.”

That goes against a driver’s natural instinct to go fast, but Wallace had no issues going slower.

“A racer wants to win,” Wallace said. “If it’s got to save fuel to win, then hell yeah, I’ll do it. I’m not going against what the engineers say. They’ve got it all calculated out and numbered out to tell me what to do. That’s my job. Tell me what to do and I’ll execute that.”

Now the focus turns to doing it again.

“We wanted the playoffs when we started the season,” Wallace said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We know that we are in a hole, but it’s finishes like that, that we have to capitalize on the speed in our cars. Today shows what we can do. We’ve got to keep up the momentum.”

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Saturday Sonoma Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on goprn.com. … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)