Bubba Wallace achieved a new feat to put on his Mount Rushmore after securing his first berth in the NASCAR Cup Series Qualifiers.
“I don’t have a lot of stuff on my Mount Rushmore,” Wallace said Saturday night after the regular season finale at Daytona. “I got two faces with Fozzie; I’ll put this as the third face there. It’s very special.”
“Just relaxed. I don’t have a lot of feelings, just relaxed, drained mentally. I’m glad we got the day off tomorrow because I’ll be sore on Monday.
Wallace made it to the end of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 after missing a multi-car crash on lap 95, and finished twelfth to finish last on the qualifying grid through points. He joins teammate Tyler Reddick in the post-season, marking the first time 23XI Racing has qualified both cars for the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of the entire 23XI team to have two cars in the Qualifiers in just our third year,” said co-owner Denny Hamlin. “It’s a testament to all the hard work they put in. You can’t do it without your Toyota manufacturer, the Joe Gibbs Racing Alliance and the team itself to put fast cars on the race track and on top of that, drivers working to get better.
“We’ve seen a really big turnaround in Bubba’s improvement. He’s progressing and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.”
With the way Saturday night’s race went, Wallace couldn’t have been immediately topped by another driver in points, and he could only have been kept out of the postseason if there was a new winner.
Race winner Buescher and Wallace are former Xfinity Series teammates driving for Jack Roush, and Wallace said on his team radio after the checkered flag that he had never “liked” Buescher so much.
Bucher crossed the finish line ahead of Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola and Chase Elliott. Victories for Almirola and Elliott would have prevented Wallace from reaching the postseason.
“I’m finally going to let the Dover meat go,” Wallace joked of Buescher, whom he faced at the top of the race in 2015 for the Dover win.
Wallace went into Daytona as the driver who was being chased by 14 others. The spot Wallace occupied on the playoff grid was the only one available at the end of the regular season.
“I just feel good,” Wallace said. “I’ve been apologizing to my wife (Amanda) all week. I haven’t been myself — I’ve been getting nervous. Thankful we’re in it. This is the most calm I’ve ever been. She’s (butt) back. She comes to Daytona and focuses so much on getting things under control.” Which you can control.My stubborn ass never wants to listen to people telling me that.I finally did, and we are locked in.
“What an amazing feat for our team of 23. I was honest with my team after Atlanta after qualifying. I said if we get (expletive) together, we can do great things in the playoffs. I’m so proud of the team from top to bottom, so grateful “.
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