Monday, November 28 2022

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Bubba Wallace created another bit of NASCAR history Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Wallace, who became the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race in nearly 58 years last season at Talladega, became the first Black driver to win multiple Cup Series races with his victory Sunday.

He did so in impressive fashion, as he led 58 of the final 68 laps and crossed the finish line one second ahead of his 23XI Racing car owner, Denny Hamlin.

“It’s incredible,” Wallace said. “It just makes you think back to when it all started 20 years ago and how we were just showing up to races.

“And each and every weekend, my dad would always look for the stiffest competition to make us better. It was a lot of fun. … You just want to show up and win. Whatever history comes in after that, it all settles in behind because there’s no greater thing than winning.”

Bubba Wallace holds off Denny Hamlin to win at Kansas

Bubba Wallace plays playoff spoiler and holds off Denny Hamlin to win at Kansas

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Here are three takeaways from the second consecutive playoff race in which a non-playoff driver won.

A different win

Wallace’s first win at Talladega came with the typical dismissal of “anyone can win at Talladega,” where the aerodynamic draft bunches up the field and creates more contenders. His victory there also came in a rain-shortened race. 

This win didn’t have rain or any unusual circumstances. It was at a racetrack that requires a different skill. And to not mess up over the final, 96-lap green-flag run was certainly impressive.

“To win it in this fashion, it’s definitely really cool,” Wallace said. “We’re talked about when we go to the speedways [of Daytona and Talladega] and kind of not so much the rest of the tracks, so I want to start changing that.

“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.”

Reaction to Bubba Wallace’s Cup Series win at Kansas

Fast Thoughts: Bob Pockrass explains why the Kansas victory is an indication that even more wins are coming for Bubba Wallace.

Wallace’s improvement key

Wallace extended his lead on a green-flag pit stop, thanks to his ability to maximize speed in getting to and from his pit box. It is a skill many drivers don’t perfect until they get to the Cup Series because of the number of pit stops typically in an event.

Wallace also remained calm and ran consistent laps throughout the final green-flag run.

“I haven’t won a race like that in a really long time, but just knowing getting excited is going to mess you up, so I was just cool, calm and collected,” he said. “And here we are.” 

Bubba Wallace on his historic victory at Kansas

Bubba Wallace explains what it means to him to be the first Black driver with multiple victories in the NASCAR Cup Series.

His owner certainly has noticed a difference in how Wallace approaches races.

“Bubba is now showing the results and getting the results from the work that he is putting in as a driver,” Hamlin said. “Really proud of the whole effort.”

Playoff implications

The first two races of the playoffs have been won by drivers (Erik Jones and Wallace) not eligible for the drivers championship because they aren’t part of the 16-driver playoff field.

Christopher Bell is the only driver so far who has clinched a spot in the second round of the postseason. He has earned enough points that he can’t be one of the four eliminated Saturday at Bristol.

Wallace was moved to the 23XI Racing team’s No. 45 car for the postseason to replace the injured Kurt Busch (concussion). Because Busch won at Kansas earlier this year, the No. 45 team is in the owners playoffs, an identical system to the drivers playoffs in which all the year-end bonus money is allocated by NASCAR.

The Wallace victory means the team advances to the second round of the owner playoffs.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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