Bubba Wallace has been a polarizing figure in NASCAR since joining the Cup Series full-time in 2018, but he accomplished a big milestone Saturday with assistance from Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.
Wallace was on the bubble heading into Saturday’s race at Daytona International Speedway, which brings unpredictable results. But when Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski accomplished their goal of a 1-2 finish and the 23XI Racing driver finished 12th, that helped Wallace clinch a spot in the playoffs since Buescher already picked up a win in the regular season.
“All those comments that people throw on your videos about Bubba Wallace (not) making the playoffs, they’re wrong,” Wallace told FOX Sports after the race. “I love it. I love it. I love it.”
Wallace is the only Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series and the first full-time Black driver in the series since Wendell Scott in 1971. He had never won a race in the Xfinity Series, and he knew there were doubts about his standing in the Cup Series. But he’ll continue to get the chance to prove doubters wrong in the playoffs.
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“Right now I feel like I’m in English class back in high school bored as hell,” Wallace said. “It’s weird. Sorry to my English teacher, but I think starting Sunday night all the way to climbing in the car, that was the most stressed I’ve ever been but also the most hyper-focused that I’ve ever been.
“It was kind of a surreal situation I was in mentally. I was just proud to make it all work and having the people behind me — my team, my wife helping me navigate all the obstacles getting to this point.”
The first playoff race is at Darlington Raceway on Sunday and it will be the first of three races in the round of 16 before the field cuts down to the top 12.
Featured image via David Yeazell/USA TODAY Sports Images