KANSAS CITY, KS – SEPTEMBER 11: Bubba Wallace, driver of Toyota’s #45 ROOT Insurance, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Hollywood 400 Casino from the NASCAR Series at Kansas Speedway on September 11, 2022 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Bubba Wallace drove the same number car that carried his teammate Kurt Busch to victory in the May race at Kansas Speedway, Bubba Wallace racking up a dramatic victory on the same track at the Hollywood 400 Casino on Sunday, the second event in the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series qualifiers.
Wallace regained the lead on lap 225 after the final green-flag pit pit stop at the 1.5-mile track and stayed ahead at the final 43rd as his owner, Denny Hamlin, chased him unsuccessfully.
Wallace crossed the bar exactly one second ahead of Hamlin, as the uncontested driver won the drivers’ title for the second week in a row. Hamlin finished second in the second race in a row, after Eric Jones to the streak last Sunday in Darlington.
“Man, so proud of this team, so proud of the effort they put in every week,” said Wallace, who won for the first time this season and the second time in his career. “Just grateful for this opportunity, right? I took this leap of faith two years ago from a script from my religion before it all happened. He was ready to get the deal done…
“Just so proud. The pit crew was great today. We had one loose wheel. Just so thankful. Thanks for the opportunity, and thanks for silencing the hell so many people.”
Wallace is competing for the Cup Series Owners Championship in the car that Kurt Bosch drove for the first 20 races of the season before suffering concussion-like symptoms after suffering a wreck in qualifying in Pocono. With his victory, Wallace qualified for the quarter-finals of the Angel contest.
Christopher Bell, who finished third, is the first driver to lock himself into the 12th qualifying round with points. The 15 other championship contenders will either have to cement their places in the last 12 matches – or be eliminated – next Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
During the last round, Hamlin overtook Bell for second on lap 252 of 267. With 10 laps remaining, Hamlin trailed by 2.066secs, but couldn’t get any closer than another one-second deficit the rest of the way.
Hamlin clearly had a mixed feeling about his pursuit of the #45 Toyota 23XI he co-owned with NBA legend Michael Jordan.
“It was a good day overall,” said Hamlin, who recovered from a equipment interference penalty – the 34th hole road offense of the season – on lap 27 under a competition warning. “I’m still frustrated about the first half of the race. We just don’t do all that well…
“Really happy for our 11 Toyota team. They fought hard. They really went up in the last half. We made the car a little better. Just really happy with the result and really happy for Team 45 and Bubba Wallace and (crew chief) Bootie (Parker). Bubba has just worked really hard. on his craft, and we’ve just given him fast race cars, and now he’s showing off what he’s got.”
Alex Bowman finished fourth, followed by non-racing driver Martin Truex Jr. in the championship William Byron, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez, completing the top 10.
Other drivers were not so lucky.
Sudden disaster knocked Kevin Harvick out of the race before the end of Stage 1. Racing side by side, Chastain and Wallace drove the track in front of Harvick’s #4 Ford as the cars sped away through Turn 4.
Harvick’s Mustang exploded and his car’s right front rammed the outer wall. With the damage so severe that it could not be repaired, Harvick retired from the race in last (36) position.
“When those two cars came in front of me, it got really cramped,” Harvick said after a visit to the inpatient care center. “When I lifted up, I clung and walked out. I didn’t expect them to come up with my car so narrow.”
Harvick entered race 16 in the playoff standings. The last-place results put him in a must-see position next Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Yes, that’s what it is,” Harvick said. “We were racing to win anyway today, which is what we’ll be doing again next week.”
Harvick wasn’t the only first stage victim. Pole winner Tyler Riddick blew out a right rear tire while driving in a Lap 65 and crashed into the outside wall in the second turn. place.
“The right rear tire blew out like it did a few times,” said Riddick, who dropped to 11th in the playoff standings. “At Fontana (Auto Club Speedway), I was able to save it. But here, it exploded at the worst possible point, and we just killed the wall.
“He broke the front right joystick, so our day is over. We leave here with a few points, so we have to fight hard in Bristol.”
The trouble for the match drivers continued when Kyle Busch, whose team had already had two equipment-entering kicks on a pit road, took Turn 4 on lap 137. Busch’s right-side tires kicked off as he slid onto the turf, and Busch lost a lap. While he was tending his injured car to excavate the road.
Busch regained his lap as the cautious patron at the end of Stage 2, but lost two laps during the final round of 96 laps with the green flag. His finish dropped him in 26th place by two points off the current Round 8 cut-off line, trailing Tyler Riddick and Austin Sendrick by that margin.
Joining Bosch and Harvick in the bottom four are Austin Dillon (Sunday 14th) and Chase Briscoe (13th). The pitch will be reduced from 16 to 12 drivers after next Saturday’s race in Thunder Valley.
– NASCAR Newswire –
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