Bubba Wallace’s second career Cup win was only ‘a matter of time’

0 Comments

KANSAS CITY, Kans. — Winning is always special, but drivers have said, particularly those with one Cup win, that winning a second series race was important because it showed that they were not just a one-hit wonder.

Bubba Wallace passed beyond that with his second career Cup victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

MORE: Bubba Wallace to be on MotorMouths Monday (6-7 p.m. ET on Peacock)

“I think winning at this level is the hardest thing in life for us race car drivers,” said Wallace, who has won a Cup race two consecutive seasons.

“To be able to say we’re winners (Sunday) here at Kansas through the year that we’ve had and what we’ve been able to do the last couple of months is incredible. … To come out winners, I knew it was only a matter of time. Had a lot of people telling me that. So it’s finally cool to see it come to fruition. Two times is better than one time.”

The victory is not surprising. Wallace had arguably the best car at Kansas in May but two penalties by his pit crew caused him to restart twice at the back of the field. He went on to finish 10th. 23XI Racing teammate Kurt Busch won that race. 

At Michigan last month, Wallace was on the front row for the final restart but could not keep Kevin Harvick from getting by. Wallace then was mired in a battle to keep second and never got the chance to challenge Harvick, placing second. 

That Wallace is becoming a factor at more than superspeedways — his first career Cup win was last year at Talladega and he has three runner-up finishes at Daytona — shows the growth he and his team are making.

“We’re talked about when we go to the speedways and kind of not so much the rest of the tracks, so I want to start changing that,” Wallace said after his sixth top-10 finish in the last nine races. “We’ve been able to show up these last two months or so, all different types of racetracks, and be talked about. That’s cool. It’s a step in the right direction.

“We just can’t get complacent. We have to keep going, keep pushing for more. This is great, but we have to continue to go back out and battle. I appreciate the opportunity that I’m in right now with the team that I have and keep going.”

————————————————————————————————————————

A couple of key moments in Sunday’s race went against Denny Hamlin and kept him from having a chance to win. 

On what would be the final restart — at the beginning of stage 3 — Hamlin lined up fourth on Lap 172 but quickly fell back to eighth by Lap 174. In a race where track position was critical, this put him in a challenging spot.

Hamlin didn’t get to fifth until Lap 197 in the 267-lap race. He was back up to fourth when he came to pit road on Lap 214 for his final stop. 

Hamlin was first playoff car to pit. Crew chief Chris Gabehart said he came early because he was trying to leapfrog Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell.

Hamlin had an 11.5-second pit stop, according to Racing Insights. Leader Bubba Wallace came on the next lap and had a 10.4-second pit stop.

That was only part of what kept Hamlin from having a chance to challenge Wallace for the win at the end.

Gabehart said Wallace’s entry and exit off pit road, compared to Hamlin’s, was a key factor. 

“It was roughly a two second delta,” Gabehart told NBC Sports of the difference between Wallace and Hamlin. “Some of that was the pit stop just wasn’t great. And to Bubba’s credit, he’s really good at (pit entry and pit exit). His green flag entries and green flag exits have been good for a long time. And it won him a race.”

Hamlin acknowledged how good Wallace is in that area.

Bubba, historically on the metrics, has been really good on green flag entries,” Hamlin said. “So I kind of knew that it was going to be tough for me to gain. I kind of focused just on not making a mistake coming to pit road. … He just smashed us pretty bad, I think by about a second. We lost by exactly one second.

Said Wallace: “There’s a lot of metrics in our JGR metric sheet. There’s about 1,000 pages. I take pride in trying to be at the top of those. Some weeks you are. Most weeks I’m not, but pit-in, pit-out, green flag stuff has always been one of my strong suits.

Honestly, they said, ‘Pit now,’ and I’m like, OK, and just was able to capitalize and that was it. Didn’t do anything fancy, but just one of those high traits that we carry. It worked out for us.”

————————————————————————————————————————

Martin Truex Jr.’s fifth-place finish was not a result he celebrated. 

Truex, who still seeks his first win of the season and is not in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, gave up the lead on Lap 112 when he had to return to pit road so his crew could tighten the left rear tire. 

Truex didn’t get back into the top five until seven laps left. 

“Too many mistakes,” Truex said. 

He said he felt he had the best car in the race.

What could he do better than others?

“Pass cars,” he said. “The longer the race goes, the harder it is to do it and the longer it takes you to get through the field. Just too many mistakes.”

Asked if this was just the way the season has gone, Truex said: “Yep. Ready for the offseason.”

————————————————————————————————————————

Sunday marked the first time in 50 years that the same car number won two races at a track in the same season with different drivers, according to Racing Insights. Both Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace drove the No. 45 car to a win this year at Kansas.

The No. 21 car of Wood Brothers Racing won the 1972 Daytona 500 with A.J. Foyt and won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona that July with David Pearson. 

The last time the same car number won two races with multiple drivers in the same season was 2002.

Sterling Marlin won in the No. 40 car at Las Vegas and Dover before he suffered a fractured vertebra and missed the final seven races of the season. Jamie McMurray won the fall Charlotte race in his second start in the No. 40 car in place of Marlin that season.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Talladega Superspeedway

0 Comments

The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll into Talladega Superspeedway, a center of uncertainty, for the second race in the Round of 12 this weekend.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) could place the first driver in the Round of 8. Any playoff driver who wins the race automatically advances to the next round.

Through the playoffs to date, playoff drivers are batting zero in the race-win category. Non-playoff drivers — Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones — have scored wins in the first four playoff races.

Joey Logano leads the playoff points entering the race. Ross Chastain, who won at Talladega earlier this year, is second.

The four drivers below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron was above the line earlier this week but was penalized 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. That move lifted Chase Briscoe above the cutline.

Playoff races also are scheduled for the Xfinity Series (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, USA Network) and the Camping World Truck Series (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., FS1) at Talladega.

Here’s a look at the Talladega weekend schedule:

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74.

Sunday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 75.

Friday, Sept. 30

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 2 – 7 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

0 Comments

Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

0 Comments

The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

0 Comments

The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.