Daytona 500 Pit Road Mistake Turns into Blessing for Bubba Wallace

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Not having enough fuel turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Bubba Wallace as it allowed him to avoid Daytona 500 mayhem.

In the final round of green flag pit stops during ‘The Great American Race’ Wallace’s No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota Camry XSE team didn’t get his car full of fuel. That forced the 23XI Racing driver to drop out of the pack in the closing laps to hit pit road. Although that ruined the NASCAR Cup Series veteran’s track position, it likely saved the Mobile, AL native’s race overall.

Just laps after Wallace ducked out of line, a massive wreck consumed the field entering Turn 3. 23 cars were damaged with seven completely knocked out of the race, including fellow 23XI Racing driver Tyler Reddick. The 30-year-old had been in the draft with Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and eventual race winner William Byron, exactly where the wreck eventually started.

On the final restart, Wallace restarted 14th. In one lap he surged forward, entering the top-five as the field took the white flag. At the same time, contact between Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric sent the duo spinning through the infield grass and back onto the racing surface, forcing a race-ending caution. When the checkered flag waved, Wallace was fifth with a nearly pristine racecar.

“They wrecked, my car says otherwise, I don’t have a scratch,” Wallace observed. “Maybe one (scratch)? It was an interesting race that was. I thought the big wreck would happen, like 30 laps sooner.

“We got lucky with that wreck because we have to come back down and fill it up and our race was over with. We gave up all that track position so that’s unfortunate but I’m so proud of the team, mistakes happen, but I told those guys already. The good teams win races, the teams that make mistakes don’t, so hopefully we can learn from it and just be better and see what we can do but good way to start the year off the top five.” 

Wallace finished the first two stages of the race at ‘The World Center of Racing’ in eighth and seventh respectively. That earned the two-time Cup Series an additional seven points.

Wallace briefly led the race in Stage 1 before green flag pit stops. He cycled outside of the top-10, only getting up to eighth before the green-white checkered flag. Though he didn’t lead in Stage 2, a similar story played out at Daytona Int’l Speedway, going from outside the top-10 to seventh.

The fifth-place finish in the race was Wallace’s 17 th career top-five in the Cup Series. It is also his 33rd career top-10 finish. He leaves Daytona fifth in the points standings, 15 behind leader Byron.

Next up for Wallace is the AmBetter Health 400 at the intermediate-superspeedway hybrid of Atlanta Motor Speedway. While he has two finishes inside the top-15 since the track was reconfigured, the box score doesn’t show his strength at the mini-superspeedway.

“I think we’re going to make up for what we didn’t do here as a field, as a group,” Wallace said. “I hope it goes just as smooth and we know we’re capable of doing. We just haven’t put the last three races there together, got some work to do on our end, got a couple days figured out and go have some fun.”

The AmBetter Health 400 at Atlanta is scheduled for Sunday, February 25, at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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