Emotional Bubba Wallace Proud of Watkins Glen Effort After Call From Scott Dixon
The driver of the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota Camry has put himself in a position to secure his first-career NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Berth next weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
After 90 hard-fought laps in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen, Bubba Wallace grabbed himself a Dr. Pepper, and as he began to cool off, the emotions started to set in.
The driver of the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota Camry TRD admittedly struggles on road courses, and with how emotional he was after Sunday's 12th-place effort at Watkins Glen, you got the sense that Wallace expected to once again struggle. However, a race day morning phone call from six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon changed Wallace's psyche heading into the Go Bowling at The Glen.
"Shout out to Scott Dixon," Wallace said with tears welling up in his eyes. "I actually talked to him this morning about the mental piece of it, right? It's hard when you climb in at a road course race, and you tell yourself you're going to crash or you're going to suck.
"When you tell yourself that every time -- he basically told me to shut the hell up, and I'm here for a reason. To trust in myself, and believe in myself, and it's what can happen. I don't think I had one lap that I said I was going to suck, so that was good."
The pep talk from Dixon worked.
Wallace rolled from the 12th starting spot, and snagged three Stage Points with an eighth-place finish in Stage 1. He scored another two Stage Points with a ninth-place effort in Stage 2.
And in the end, he recorded a 12th-place finish.
Not only did Wallace not struggle on Sunday, but he scored the seventh-most points of anyone in the race. It was a much-needed reprieve after back-to-back 18th-place finishes heading into Watkins Glen.
Wallace, the last driver currently inside the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Grid, had lost nearly 30 points to the Playoffs cutline after an 18th-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course two weeks ago.
It was a sobering day made, even more, deflating by the fact that Michael McDowell, who sits behind Wallace in the point standings, won at Indianapolis to lock himself into the Playoffs.
A week after the subpar day in Indianapolis, Wallace now has a completely different mindset as he heads into a date with Daytona International Speedway with a chance at a Playoff berth on the line.
And Wallace has more than the exceptional effort at Watkins Glen to boost his confidence. Wallace is a great superspeedway racer and has been close to pulling through at Daytona.
While he had doubt heading into The Glen, Wallace knows he can achieve big things in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
In 12 starts at the 2.5-mile speedway in Daytona Beach, Wallace has three runner-up finishes. He's been knocking on the door. On Saturday night, he'll look to break the door down.
No pep talk is needed for this one.
But even if Wallace doesn't score his third career NASCAR Cup Series win on Saturday night, he has to feel good about his chances of advancing to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the first time in his six-year NASCAR Cup Series career.
Photo Credit: John K Harrelson, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing