NASCAR Cup Series

Bubba Wallace slays 2022 demons, completes 23XI Kansas sweep

3 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

2022 had been a season of near-misses and heartbreak for Bubba Wallace, who stepped up his performance from the previous year but was frequently plagued by misfortunes on pit road or simply coming up short. After missing the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and moving to injured team-mate Kurt Busch‘s #45 car for the postseason, he finally found his way to Victory Lane.

Wallace took the lead on lap 225 of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway and led the remaining forty-three laps to finally win in 2022 and for the second time in his career. Besides advancing the #45 to the next round of the owner’s playoffs, the victory makes non-playoff drivers two-for-two so far after Erik Jones‘ Darlington triumph; Wallace’s maiden win at the 2021 YellaWood 500 was also as a playoff spoiler. While that win was shortened by rain, Kansas saw him win entirely on pace after holding off his 23XI Racing boss Denny Hamlin.

“I get excited, and I get let down a lot when I’m excited, so it’s better to come into it ho-hum and be relieved with the win at the end of it,” said Wallace. “It’s really, really cool. I think you never know when it’s over. You had Denny behind us that was coming pretty hard, but it was going to take a really big mistake for him to get to me. So I was really focused on that. I didn’t have time to think about anything else.”

He had enjoyed great success at the first Kansas race in May but a late pit penalty doomed his chances of winning that, though Busch would take the victory. As such, the #45 is one of a small handful of a Cup car that has won multiple races in a season with different drivers, with the latest instance being in 2002 with Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray in the #40 for Chip Ganassi Racing; the #45 joins the #21 of Wood Brothers Racing in achieving the feat at the same track as WBR’s A.J. Foyt and David Pearson both won with the #21 at Daytona in 1972.

“We are winners again,” Busch tweeted. “Proud of @BubbaWallace and @23XIRacing for getting it done today.”

Wallace recalled, “I remember the conversation that Denny pulled me aside down in Florida, and he goes, ‘Hey, we want you to drive the #45 and compete for a championship. We believe in you.’ It’s continue to do what we do. I didn’t walk away from that being like, ‘Oh man, we got to ramp it up here.’ We’ve been stellar. We’ve been really, really good.

“It’s only a matter of time, and the little bit of things that we needed to clean up, and here we are today. We executed today. Still wasn’t a perfect day, but we were able to execute and bounce back and make the most of it.”

While not the Toyota masterclass of the AdventHealth 400 where all six Camrys finished in the top ten, Toyota drivers still occupied four of the top five positions with Christopher Bell (third) and Martin Truex Jr. (fifth). The two exceptions, Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs, respectively suffered spins that ruined their days.

Race results

1645Bubba Wallace^23XI RacingToyota267Running
22511Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
3420Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
4348Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
51219Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
6924William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
751Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet267Running
875Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
91712Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord267Running
101599Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet267Running
11229Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
1282Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord267Running
131314Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord267Running
14113Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet267Running
151017Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord267Running
162334Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord267Running
17222Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord266Running
182816Noah Gragson*Kaulig RacingChevrolet266Running
192731Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet266Running
202142Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet266Running
213610Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
222941Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
233238Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord266Running
243177Landon Cassill*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet266Running
25266Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord266Running
262018Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota265Running
273051Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord265Running
283315J.J. Yeley*Rick Ware RacingFord264Running
292443Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet264Running
303547Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet262Running
313478B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord262Running
321821Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord115Accident
33197Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet114Accident
341623Ty Gibbs*23XI RacingToyota90Accident
3518Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet67Accident
36144Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord33Accident
Bold – Currently in playoffs
^ – Currently in owner playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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