Prior to Sunday’s (Sept. 8) Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bubba Wallace plastered all over social media how good his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet was.
Come the race, he backed it up.
After a solid two practice sessions, Wallace backed up his social media game by qualifying 15th, one of his best starting positions of 2019. And once the race began, the No. 43 car remained relevant, finishing 14th in the first stage. In the second stage, he was one position better in 13th.
But the final stage is where Wallace shined. By maneuvering through the field and catching timely cautions, the No. 43 found itself inside the top five with less than 30 laps to go. And with a couple of late race restarts, Wallace was able to hold onto the track position he gained, placing third, his best finish since the 2018 Daytona 500 (second).
“Hell of a day for my team,” Wallace said post-race. “We needed this. We needed this weekend. We unloaded with speed, and I was bragging to everybody, ‘Hell, this [No.] 43 could be kissing some bricks come Sunday afternoon. We were just shy of it.
“It’s incredible to think about where the season started and where we were at 10 races in. Ever since Charlotte [Coca-Cola 600 in May], we’ve still been bringing some heat. …It’s an unforgettable day here in Indy.”
Wallace’s strong finish didn’t come without controversy. During pit stops under a lap 10 caution, the No. 43 was in an accordion effect incident on pit road. After being hit from behind by Chase Elliott, he was pushed into Jimmie Johnson‘s pit box, narrowly missing disaster, though it resulted in slight damage.
However, the damage didn’t slow the No. 43 Chevrolet down. Wallace saidnthat he believes the team has been close to this potential for months, despite previously having a season-best finish of 14th at Bristol Motor Speedway, two races ago.
“Out of a five-star field, we’ve had four ever since Charlotte,” he said. “That last one would flash for a second and then go away. We’d be running good and not have the finish that we deserve. This one was that fifth star flashing, solid from the time we unloaded until the time the checkered flag fell.
“If we can just have moments like that and weekends like that, we can start put together runs and generate more funding and resources and get our cars better.”
RPM is one of the smaller teams in the Cup Series. Even with the third-place finish, Wallace sits 27th in the championship standings. But the driver believes if the team keeps chipping away good things are on the horizon.
Funding is still an issue. World Wide Technology has upped its races this season, but Wallace said he believes there is more money coming in the doors, allowing the team to put races together like with by running better equipment.
“If this is what we can do right off the bat, you get excited for the last 10 races left and then excited for next year as well,” Wallace added. “We’ve just got to keep on digging. The race is over with, we finished third, yup, but now Vegas is on our minds. It’s just how competitive we are. We’re going to go out the mindset that we can win.”
With it being RPM’s first top-five finish on a non-superspeedway track in nearly four years (October 2015 at Dover International Speedway), Wallace said a conversation with his mother on Saturday added fuel to his fire to win: “My mom told me yesterday that, ‘When you win, tell them haters to kiss them bricks.’ So kiss mine.”
The third-place outing is the No. 43 team’s third top-15 result of the season, all in the past nine races. With the series heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week, Wallace has a best outing of 21st in three starts at the venue.