Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – SPEEDWAY, IN – It was the kind of day Bubba Wallace had likely pictured as a kid – a triumphant performance on one of racing’s brightest stages. His third-place finish in Sunday’s Big Machine Records 400 at the Brickyard was his best showing since a runner-up finish in the 2018 season-opening Daytona 500.
Certainly, Wallace knows where to make an impact, but he’d love to have even more of these “wow” days in the iconic No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. This weekend was a strong statement that Wallace and the team are gelling.
“It was a good day for my team, we needed this, we needed this weekend,’’ said Wallace, who took the checkered flag just behind a pair of NASCAR Playoff contenders, race winner Kevin Harvick and reigning series champion Joey Logano, who finished second.
This race outcome was no fluke for the Petty team. Wallace was fast from the time the car was unloaded in Indy. He was fifth fastest in opening practice Saturday and answered it with a 16th- place run in the second practice. He then went on to start 15th in the Brickyard 400 after a rare race morning qualifying session.
So understandably, Wallace was optimistic, even confident about his race chances.
“I was bragging to everybody saying this 43 could be kissing some bricks Sunday afternoon,’’ Wallace said. “We were just shy of it. It’s incredible to think about. Where the season started and where we were 10 races in, but ever since Charlotte, we’ve been bringing some heat.’’
After scoring only a single top-20 finish through the opening 17 races of the season, the No. 43 team has found speed and reason to look forward to the remaining 10 weeks left in the season.
He’s had two top-15 finishes in just the last three races – including a 14th-place run at Bristol, Tenn. three weeks ago. And after a headline-making rookie season where he finished runner-up at Daytona, Wallace has been adjusting to the increased level of competition while running for a small single-car team.
“It’s just the passion and the drive my team has,’’ Wallace said. “It’s a blast coming to the race track and being away from the race track with my guys.
“Smaller teams, you’re more like family. That truly means a lot. It’s an unforgettable day here in Indy.’’