Wallace holds off boss and title contenders to win at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Bubba Wallace was so comfortable cruising around Kansas Speedway on Sunday that he told his team over the radio in the closing laps that he didn’t want to know who was chasing him or how far they could go. be.
He probably would have smiled knowing it was his boss.
Denny Hamlin managed to cut Wallace’s lead down the stretch, but the co-owner with Michael Jordan of the #45 car for 23XI Racing eventually ran out of time. Wallace took the checkered flag for his second NASCAR Cup Series victory and made consecutive weeks a non-elimination driver won a postseason race.
« I knew Denny was going to be strong, » Wallace said after getting out of his car and throwing some shade at his many critics. « It’s cool to beat the boss, but man, we were just turned off. Once we got to the top, it was a lot of fun.
Wallace rounded playoff contender Alex Bowman to take the lead with 67 laps to go, then built a 2-second cushion on a parade of drivers in the title chase, each trying to pick up the win that would secure their spot in round of 16.
Hamlin found himself ahead, finishing second to climb to third in the playoff standings.
« I was driving as hard as I could, » said Hamlin, who had no qualms about passing his own driver for the win. « Nothing will ever be free when you drive for me. If you think I’m gonna let you win, you better find another team.
Wallace, who became the 18th different driver to reach victory lane this season, also won in last year’s playoffs at Talladega when he was also out of the title draw. And his win on Sunday came after Erik Jones, who also missed the playoffs this year, won a chaotic race a week ago at Darlington.
“Just so proud of this team, so proud of the effort they put in every week,” said Wallace, who won in the same No. 45 car Kurt Busch drove to victory at Kansas earlier this year. « They work hard and I’m so proud. »
Busch exited the ride while suffering from a concussion. He was quick to tweet his congratulations.
Bell was third and Bowman fourth with playoff underdog Martin Truex Jr. in fifth. William Byron, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez — all firmly committed to the hunt for the playoffs — rounded out the top 10.
Bell was the only driver to earn a place in the next round on points. The other 11 are up for grabs towards Bristol.
« I’m very happy that we are finally getting the results this team deserves, » Bell said. “Our speed has been there all year. I feel like we gave up a lot of good finishes. Hopefully we can build on that and keep rolling.
Kevin Harvick spent the week wrecking hell that ruined his first game of the playoffs and led to further talk about safety in the Next Gen car. But it was the car’s aerodynamics that ruined Sunday and left its playoff hopes in jeopardy.
Trouble started when Harvick was caught by four shortly after a competition warning. Ross Chastain drifted past him, took the air out of Harvick’s nose and let him go. The three-time winner from Kansas hit the wall at Turn 4, then hit hard again on the start-finish line, leaving him with heavy damage on the right side.
« It is what it is, » said Harvick, who failed to complete three straight races for the first time in a Cup career with 782 starts. « We were racing to win today anyway, so that’s what we’ll do again next week. »
Tyler Reddick’s brilliant weekend, which included his first pole on an oval, also ended in stage one when his right rear tire failed. This sent his No. 8 sliding into the wall, breaking the upper control arm at the front right.
« We leave here with few points, » Reddick said, « so we’re going to fight hard at Bristol. »
Stage 2 was equally frustrating for playoff hopefuls. Many had trouble on pit road, including Kyle Busch, who not only picked up a penalty for an unchecked tire but then spun through the grass and was one lap behind. Busch finished 26th and fell below the playoff boundary with Harvick, Chase Briscoe and Austin Dillon.
Busch trails Suarez by six points and Reddick and Austin Cindric by two towards Bristol. Dillon is another point back.
JTG Daugherty Racing has learned that longtime team member JR Hollar passed away early Sunday. He was 57 years old. The cause has not been revealed. … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also had a right rear tire come off while running near the front, then Harrison Burton and Corey LaJoie wrecked on the restart. … Hamlin overcame an equipment penalty during a pit stop.
The final race of the round will be Saturday night on concrete in Bristol, where Busch won the Cup race on clay in April.