Bubba Wallace felt he happened to get lucky Sunday at the Indianapolis road course with a fifth-place finish in the Verizon 200.
“One hundred percent luck on that finish,” Wallace said with amusement.
The 23XI Racing driver admitted he made some mistakes early in the day, but things went in his favor late. Wallace and his No. 23 team with crew chief Bootie Barker fought through a wild day to keep themselves in contention for a decent finish. Doing so meant trying not to fall victim to Turn 1 roughhousing, including on the final restart of the race.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Wallace said. “I closed my eyes, the last one, and I picked off four or five guys, and the next thing you know, we were sixth. It just so happened to work out. I’m getting better slowly and slowly at these things. I want to be the best at these things, and I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m frustrated with myself but happy with the luck finally changing around.
“It seems like we’ve been beaten down over this year. We’ve got four races to go in the regular season to continue to climb. I’m proud of this team. I’m proud of everyone on this Embrace Toyota Camry. We just have to keep going.”
Road courses have been Wallace’s Achilles’ heel and he admits as much. Sunday was the first time he finished in the top 10 on a road course in his Cup Series career.
“We come here to survive,” Wallace said. “That’s what we come to do at road courses; try my best, don’t make any mistakes, and just survive, and felt like I did that.”
Wallace and company knew it was going to get hectic late in the going, seeing a rash of cautions inside the final 20 laps. Things appeared to have settled down with less than 10 to go and, at that point, Wallace was content to take the finish of wherever he was running and get out of Indianapolis with a solid day.
Then came overtime.
“And then it’s like, ‘Oh gosh, now we’ve got to go fight,’” he said, having gone from 10th to fifth in the final two laps.
Indianapolis also continues some momentum for the team — continuing to seek clean races. They now have three consecutive top-eight finishes.
“It’s been massive,” Wallace said. “I appreciate everybody at 23XI…realizing that we all needed to step up, we all needed to look ourselves in the mirror and do better and we’ve been doing that. I’m proud of everybody.”