Bubba Wallace took the helm of the 45 car into the playoffs to help Toyota battle for the manufacturers trophy. A lot of folks were scratching their heads over that move and questioning the sanity of Toyota and 23XI Racing. But a couple of weeks later, all the questions were answered as Bubba drove the 45 to its second victory at Kansas.
Wallace had a fast car all race long but finishing races and winning has been a challenge for the 45 team. There is nothing unusual about that, a lot of teams and drivers run well but fail to seal the deal for a variety of reasons. William Byron, for example, has been struggling this season. You can even look at the teams in the playoffs, only one has more than two wins. Seven of the 16 playoff drivers have only a single win. Only three have double digit Top 5 wins. No single driver is burning up the race tracks this season.
I have no idea why Bubba has so many detractors. Was it the noose incident and the kerfuffle around that? If not, then just what is the reason? I don’t get it. If Denny Hamlin thinks enough of him to sign him and then give him an extension, I think that should be good enough for NASCAR fans.
I saw one Facebook post that said, “I just don’t like his public personality” and he also threw Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano under the bus for their personalities.
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OK, let’s look at NASCAR greats; DW, The Intimidator, Yarborough, Smoke, Harvick. Need I go on? All of these guys had or have large personalities and granted, not everyone loved them. Not everyone needs to love Bubba either but if you follow racing closely AT ALL, you know these guys are who they are, nothing is manufactured or made up. Nothing has been handed to Bubba or any of the drivers. They are there for a reason and when they stop performing, they will be replaced. End of story.
Now back to the race.
Alex Bowman led early and often and had a dominant car leading 107 laps. But after a series of weird rear tire eruptions through the field, he got back in traffic and couldn’t regain his place at the front. Add to that the long green flag runs late in the race and his car wouldn’t grip as well on fading tires.
The race had a totally different complexion early on with Bowman up front and Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick in the thick of the hunt. Kansas provides multiple racing grooves and restarts are nuts. After the competition caution for tires, the ensuing racing was crazy and Harvick saw Wallace and Ross Chastain battling in front of him and as they slid up the track, a move that Harvick possibly didn’t anticipate, he lost all grip and smacked the wall hard, thus ending his day on lap 33. After that, it was a series of tire issues or lost grip for Tyler Reddick, Ty Gibbs, Kyle Busch and others.
Once again a pit road penalty haunted the Denny Hamlin car. While finishing P2, you have to wonder what could have been for Denny all season if they could reduce his league leading penalties.
Toyota raced to the front earning 4 of the top 5 final positions. Had Kyle Busch not had issues, maybe it would have been 5 of 5. That streak now put Christopher Bell ahead in points just ahead of William Byron and Denny Hamlin.
Good on ya, mate
- Bubba Wallace (P2) for his focus and his second career win.
- Denny Hamlin (P2) for overcoming pit road issues.
- Christopher Bell (P3) was unrepentant in his dealings with the 99 last week.
- Alex Bowman (P4) is out of the cellar now.
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P5) led 24 laps but a loose tire ended that.
- William Byron (P6) led 9 laps and showed some speed.
- Ross Chastain (P7) raced hard and didn’t wreck anyone.
- Kyle Larson (P8) isn’t showing the speed he once had.
- Ryan Blaney (P9) is doing just enough to stay relevant.
- Daniel Suarez (P10) overcame a pit penalty as well.
- Austin Cindric (P12) is on the bubble and Bristol will be a battle.
So you had a bad day
- Kevin Harvick (P36) is in a must win situation again.
- Tyler Reddick (P35) is barley ahead of the cut line.
- Corey Lajoie (P33) seems to be in another’s mess a lot.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (P30) was actually running up front for a while.
- Kyle Busch (P26) lost grip and tore up his car in the grass.
- Austin Dillon (P14) is still in the playoff cellar. Must win.
- Chase Briscoe (P13) is right with Dillon. Must win.
Next up, Bristol baby!
The last 5 winners at Bristol (not dirt) are Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch, the top rated driver over the last 5 races.
Rowdy did not have a great race here in 2021 and Harvick finished second to a dominant Larson.
This will probably be the end of the line for Dillon, Briscoe and Austin Cindric and if Harvick doesn’t win, he will be out as well. But if Harvick can find his way to Victory Lane (and Kyle Busch doesn’t crash out early), then it will be a battle for Reddick and Suarez to be the final driver to move on.
This isn’t the gool ol’ Bristol but it should still be a decent race with so much on the line. We are to the point where if almost any of the playoff drivers wreck out it has the potential to shake up the bottom four drivers.
Kyle Busch to….
Tuesday is supposed to be the day when Rowdy announces where he will race in 2023. This might just be the worst kept secret in NASCAR or the worst prediction of where he will land.
Rumors are all pointing to RCR which was probably not the leading contender when this all began but has been on my radar for some time. Why? Well, in spite of the thinking they could not afford him, Kyle announced a long time ago he was willing to take a pay cut to stay at Joe Gibbs. That put several other teams in contention, primarily RCR, Kaulig Racing and 23xi Racing. Staying at 23xi would keep him in a Toyota and while that may seem the most logical place, this is NASCAR. A move to RCR or Kaulig means Busch would have to realign his personal ownership side with KBM, which I am sure he would be willing to do with the right sponsor support. But being willing to race for less money and sticking it to Toyota for whatever perceived slight there might be about getting behind him, makes other teams salivate. This will be a huge move and potentially elevates his new team to playoff and title contention immediately.
The fact that we are even speculating on where Kyle will wind up is mind blowing. He is a two-time champion and a consistent winner. Plus you can be sure he’ll keep your sponsor in the news. I am not sure if this is an indictment on the economics of NASCAR or the economy overall. Or maybe sports marketing in general. It’s kind of like having Aaron Rodgers on the market and no one can find room for him. Absurd.
We’ll all find out Tuesday! Who do you think signed Rowdy? Leave your thoughts below. And check out my past articles here.
(Featured Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)