Bubba Wallace, team rebound in strong finish at Southern 500

Bubba Wallace’s playoff debut was definitely eventful.

The 23XI Racing driver bounced back from bad qualifying and a couple of on-track incidents to earn a seventh-place finish Sunday in the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Wallace sits just off the cut line in 13th place with two races remaining before the first playoff elimination. The top 12 drivers in points advance to the second round.

Wallace started the day in 16th, last among playoff qualifiers.

“Fortunately we were able to do it early enough to rebound and no damage,” Wallace said. “We rebounded and that is what you got to show to keep going. I appreciate the team that carried me today. It is what takes a team effort …. Good solid points day for the 23 team.

“I made a lot of mistakes today. I got to clean it up moving forward.”

Wallace bounced back while other contenders could not. Eight of the 16 playoff drivers had some kind of incident during the race.

Wallace lamented his struggles, and said he “made too many enemies” Sunday.

The first incident came with AJ Allmendinger on the opening lap of the race. In the final lap before the end of the first stage, Wallace got together with Joey Logano in Turn 4.

Television replays showed Wallace sliding up the track and making contact with Logano’s left rear tire.

Wallace was remorseful for both mistakes.

“I figured I surrendered to the 22 (Logano) and when I did, I just lost it,” he said. “Apologies to them.”

But from there, Wallace and his crew rebounded and ran near the top five for the final stage before finishing seventh. That gives him some momentum going to Kansas next week.

Wallace won last year at Kansas, becoming the first Black Cup Series driver to win a race in 58 years.

“If that is the path, and the crystal ball says you are going to go through a lot of stuff, then OK. Let’s roll up our sleeves and go to work,” Wallace said. “You gotta expect the unexpected and go out and get it.”

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Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The (Columbia) State and (Hilton Head) Island Packet. He previously worked at the Florence Morning News and had covered high school sports in South Carolina since 2002. Lou is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.
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