LEBANON, Tenn. — Shortly before his qualifying attempt went wrong on Saturday at the Nashville Superspeedway, Bubba Wallace said he was trying not to stay angry after disappointing performances.
After setting the fastest lap in practice on Friday, Wallace looked like a contender for his best starting spot of the season – he’s qualified no better than seventh this season. Instead, his car was non-compliant and Wallace qualified 30th for today’s race (5 p.m. ET on NBC).
Disappointment has been a centerpiece of Wallace’s season at 23XI Racing. The result is that he is 25th in the standings with 10 races to go before the playoffs.
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“We have to win,” Wallace said. “I don’t know if we can point our way. We’ve dug our hole deep enough to where we need to stand and hold nothing back.”
The key will be avoiding many of the issues that have plagued Wallace and his team this season.
After finishing second in the Daytona 500, Wallace placed no better than 10th. He had nothing to celebrate that day in Kansas. It was among the fastest cars, but pit road issues – including two penalties – left Wallace frustrated with his crew.
His only other top 15 came in Atlanta. He was running second when the white flag was waved but fell back to eighth before being recovered in a crash before the finish line. He placed 13th after what he called one of the hardest hits of his career.
Last month’s Coca-Cola 600 proved frustrating when the team made a mistake that led to an early exit. After being involved in an accident shortly before the end of stage two, Wallace was on the damaged vehicle policy clock and had to do a minimum speed within the three green flag laps.
His car suffered minimal damage, so the team made the decision to save the vehicle for the remainder of this stage and drive behind the peloton. But in doing so, Wallace failed to reach the minimum speed and was kicked out of the race by the rule.
#NASCAR …@BubbaWallace on course for the playoffs in the next 10 races: “We have to win.” He was fastest in practice but qualified 30th. Keep an eye on him today on@NashvilleSuperSon@NBCSportsand@peacockTV pic.twitter.com/E0tMuIb6mz
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) June 26, 2022
Wallace finished last at Sonoma when his engine blew up after nine laps. It ruined the start of his weekend. He, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Hemric and another couple stayed in California for a few extra days to relax, but Wallace admitted he couldn’t after that arrival.
“It was really hard to really enjoy the first two days, I just found myself thinking about the race and thinking about all the missed opportunities we had let slip our fingers,” Wallace said.
Even so, Wallace is trying to follow the advice Kurt Busch gave him last year before they became teammates.
“It’s just about letting go of the little things, focusing on the big picture, making the most of this moment. This stage you’re in, make the most of it,” Wallace said “Then you get a reset.
“Kurt Busch told me that after he threw him at Darlington last year, he said, ‘Every step is a reset. Postponing something from stage one to stage three is only hurting yourself and your team, so understand that and enjoy the moment you’re in.
“It’s sometimes frustrating. You get run over or you have a bad save, or I’m going to hit the fence somewhere. It sets you back. You let this pass. You intend to continue to be there. I watch a lot of races where the cars have broken down and they just go through and they get good finishes.
That’s what Wallace will be looking to do from the back of the field.
Pre-race coverage of today’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway begins at 4 p.m. ET on Peacock. To get Peacock, go here. Race coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.