Bubba Wallace failed to make the NASCAR playoffs this season but took solace in the opportunity to keep some of his rivals out of the next round of the postseason with a win Sunday.
Wallace held off his 23XI Racing boss Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman to secure the second NASCAR Cup victory at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
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“I knew Denny was going to be strong,” Wallace said. “It’s cool to beat the boss, but man, we were just lights-out. Once we got to the lead, it was a lot of fun.”
The No. 45 was able to scoot around Bowman for the lead with 67 laps to go and was leading by at least 2 seconds over the rest of the pack as some contended to get into the next round of the playoffs.
Hamlin’s second-place finish helped him get to third place in the playoffs.
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“I was driving as hard as I could. Nothing will ever come free when you’re driving for me. If you think I’m going to let you win, you better find another team,” Hamlin said.
According to the latest NASCAR standings, Christopher Bell was the only driver to lock in a spot in the Round of 12. William Byron, Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney round out the top five. Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick are in danger of being eliminated.
“I’m very happy that we’re finally getting the results that this team deserves,” Bell said. “Our speed has been there all year. I feel like we’ve given up a lot of good finishes. Hopefully we can build on this and keep rolling.”
NASCAR heads to Bristol for the final race of the Round of 16. The aforementioned drivers who are on the outside looking in heading into the race will be competing with the likes of Bowman, Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.