The final scoreboard of the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway showed Bubba Wallace and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet finishing in 11th, one position shy of notching a top-10 result. The result, however, was not indicative of Wallace’s race throughout the night as he displayed strong and solid competitiveness toward the front against NASCAR’s elite and at a track where he has won twice in NASCAR’s national series.
Starting 23rd based on a random draw and sporting a special Black Lives Matter unity scheme on his car, Wallace methodically worked his way to the front and was inside the top 15 at the time of the competition caution on Lap 60. Throughout the first stage on a long green-flag run, Wallace continued to gain more positions on track and was able to make his way as high as ninth. In the closing laps of the stage, a late caution flew due to a stalled car on pit road. When all the leaders pitted, but one, Wallace opted for a two-tire change and exited pit road first, which put him on the front row with 10 laps remaining in the first stage. When the race returned to green, Wallace was quickly overtaken by Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson before settling in a battle with Martin Truex Jr. Though Truex was able to advance in the final laps, Wallace was able to finish fifth in the first stage and collect valuable stage points towards his bid to make the playoffs.
Under the stage break, Wallace gave up track position to pit. When the second stage started, however, Wallace was able to, again, methodically work his way toward the front. Thirty laps into the second stage, on Lap 170, Wallace was in 13th. With 50 laps remaining in the second stage, Wallace was back in the top 10, running eighth. Over the course of the 50-lap run under green, Wallace would gain two more positions on track and settle in sixth in the second stage as he gained more valuable points towards the playoffs.
Under the stage break, Wallace pitted and exited in sixth. Throughout the final stage, which commenced with 229 laps remaining, Wallace would slip back to 10th and then to 12th after pitting for four tires and adjustments under caution with less than 175 laps remaining. With 75 laps remaining, Wallace had fallen back to 17th, but was able to make his way back into the top 15 with less than 60 laps remaining. With the laps dwindling under green, Wallace was able to gain four more spots on track and take the checkered flag in 11th behind Johnson as Truex emerged victorious.
With his fourth top-15 finish of this season, his 14th in 87 Cup career starts, Wallace is 20th in the regular-season series standings and is 245 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick.
“Our left-front tire wasn’t getting-off the ground completely [during pit stops], so we had to do three pumps,” Wallace said. “That was unfortunate, but man, our car was so good. Our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was so good on the long runs, so we definitely did not need those cautions towards the end of the race. All-in-all, great job to come here and execute with no practice at my favorite track. I’ll tell you what, it was awesome to race with 7-Time [Jimmie Johnson] there at the end. Jimmie Johnson has won so many times here and when we’re running him down – that’s hats off to my guys. Good job, fellas!”
Next for Wallace is Homestead-Miami Speedway, a track where Wallace has raced at the last two seasons with a best result of 21st in 2018. The race will air on June 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.