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A few weeks ago, Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr. was sitting on his couch looking for a ride.
Wallace’s XFINITY Series team with Roush-Fenway Racing folded earlier in the season. His substitute role in the No. 43 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car ended when Aric Almirola returned from his injury.
“Everybody goes through trials and tribulations for a reason, and we have a lot more downs than ups in this sport,” Wallace said. “The ones that can carry themselves and comes out on top each and every time during those downs are the ones that are going to capitalize.”
Wallace, in his first Camping World Truck Series start since 2014, won the LTi Printing 200 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 12. Wallace passed Austin Cindric and Christopher Bell with a three-wide pass with 11 laps to go and played great defense to hang on for the win.
The race was stacked with action from start to finish. On lap 5, John Hunter Nemechek was underneath Chase Briscoe, when Nemechek got loose and spun out. Nemechek slammed into the wall and was unable to continue due to the heavy damage, finishing 29th of 30 entries.
Busch pulled a perfect slide job to take the lead from Briscoe midway through Stage 1. Briscoe hounded Busch for the remainder of the stage, but Busch held the rookie off for the stage win.
Johnny Sauter led early in the race, but was thrown a curve ball when he had to make an unscheduled pit stop under green flag conditions for a leaking tire 12 laps into Stage 2. The defending Truck champion lost a lap as a result.
Sauter got the lap back when he received the free pass after Jordan Anderson was forced to stop on the track because his hood flew up. The third caution came out just before the end of Stage 2 as a result.
Truex had a strong restart to root Briscoe out with five to go in the stage and soared to the second spot. Busch hung on to win Stage 2.
Bell took advantage of the caution to pit with just seven laps left in the second stage. When the rest of the field took four tires under the stage break, the No. 4 took fuel only and won the race off of pit road.
Justin Haley and Cindric were on the same strategy as Bell, but stayed out to take the lead and drove the rest of the way on fuel.
Mired back in the pack because he took four tires, Busch was collected in an accident when Cody Coughlin made contact with Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ben Rhodes. Coughlin spun into the inside wall, demolishing the No. 13 Toyota.
Busch had damage to his left front fender, but made repairs and rebounded to third place. Briscoe suffered a flat left rear tire from the incident, which caused damage to the right side of the No. 29 truck.
Cindric had a strong restart with 28 laps to go and cleared Haley, with Bell following suite. Bell stayed right in Cindric’s rearview mirror until he made a move with 11 laps left. Bell passed Cindric, who then did a crossover move. The two trucks lost momentum from the side-by-side racing and Wallace sailed by them both with a huge slide job pass.
“I knew those last laps were going to be hectic,” Wallace said. “I didn’t want to make that move that early. I wanted to wait until about three or four [laps] to go…I also didn’t want to be a sitting duck and let that opportunity go to waste. I closed my eyes, turned left and then heard ‘clear’ and then we were the leader.”
Bell came back and pulled alongside Wallace on the bottom with two laps left, but wiggled and lost momentum. Wallace cruised on for the win.
“I was pretty bummed afterwards because I felt like I was in the perfect position to win the race and just didn’t get it done,” Bell said. “I’m happy for Bubba [Wallace], that’s really cool for him.”
It was Wallace’s sixth win of his CWTS career. His last win came in the series came in his last start at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2014.
“Such a huge moment for, not only myself, everybody involved,” Wallace said.
The win was the first ever for MDM Motorsports after coming close on a few occasions.
“Hopefully, this opens the door up for sponsors,” Wallace’s crew chief Shane Huffman said. “We’re just so small and not a lot of people knew about us…A win never hurts anything.”
Bell now leads the point standings by 37 points over Sauter.