Top of the Class
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. hasn’t had too much to get excited about lately. In fact, it’s been over 18 months since his last top-10 finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Questions about his ability and job security have swirled like a Midwestern twister, but he and team owner Richard Petty have maintained that no changes were necessary. Wallace said that he had a fast car during the early stages of the weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
On Sunday, he backed up that talk in a big way, finishing third in the Brickyard 400. He didn’t luck into anything either. Sure, some contenders ran into trouble, but no more or less than many other weeks this year.
After the race, Wallace spoke about the impressive result and lashed back at his critics.
“What a helluva day, helluva day for my team,” Wallace said. “We needed this. We needed this weekend. We unloaded with speed and I was bragging to everybody. My mom told me (Saturday), she’s like, ‘When you win, tell them haters to kiss those bricks.’”
“It’s incredible to think about where the season started and where we were at the first 10 races in,” Wallace said after the race. “Ever since Charlotte, we’ve still been bringing some heat. It’s just the passion and the drive my team has and it’s a frickin’ blast coming to the racetrack and being away from the racetrack with my guys. If we can just have moments like this and weekends like that, we can start to put together runs and generate more funding and resources and get our cars better. An unforgettable day at Indy.”
Behind Wallace, Ty Dillon had a solid day that saw him land in the 13th position at the finish.
The Xfinity Series took over the most famous 2.5-mile stretch of asphalt in Speedway, Indiana on Saturday (Sept. 7). Leading the underfunded teams to the line was Austin Hill driving the No. 61 for Carl Long. It was the second top 10 in the last month for the team, following Timmy Hill’s seventh at Bristol in August.
History Lesson: 1997 Pepsi 400
Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough: two of the most iconic names in a sport full of them. Both were record-setting championship drivers and both became car owners once their time behind the wheel was finished. Neither had much success initially. Both employed previous winners and young, up and coming drivers in an attempt to restore their teams to their former glory, but the task proved much more difficult when someone else handles the driving duties.
In 1996, Petty finally returned to victory lane, this time as an owner. Bobby Hamilton gave the King the edge, only a few weeks after Yarborough had acquired his newest driver, John Andretti. Andretti was a promising talent but still unproven. As the 1997 season unfolded, Andretti experienced some challenges, but the cars were strong at Daytona in February and April at Talladega. He qualified on the pole at Talladega and finished fourth, a career best.
Then the Cup Series rolled into Daytona for the summer classic. Andretti qualified the No. 98 Ford in third place, but that was just a small indication of what was to come. When the green flag waved, the RCA-sponsored Thunderbird was the class of the field. Able to lead almost at will, it appeared the only thing that could stop Andretti from winning would be a self-inflicted mistake.
A crash with only a handful of laps to go meant a restart would come with one lap remaining. On Andretti’s bumper was arguably the best to ever race at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt. He had led 112 laps but the 113th would be the most important. When the green waved, Andretti sprinted away from the chaos behind him to score his first career win, and the first for Yarborough as an owner.
Surprisingly, Yarborough would never get another such victory. Andretti bolted at year’s end to pursue another opportunity and his replacements would never finish higher than fourth in a Cup race. The three-time champion would fold his team for good at the end of the 1999 season. Meanwhile, 1999 would see Andretti bring his new owner victory in April. That owner? Richard Petty.
Here ends the lesson.
— Hattori Racing (@Hattori_Racing) September 7, 2019
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 8, 2019
Man we needed this one. P-14 at the Brickyard! Ran good all day too which makes it even better. Hopefully this means the bad luck is behind us. Thanks @JDMotorsports01 shoutout to @FreddieKraft and @Robbiefast They earned keep today ?? @IMS #Brickyard #PatienceNeverGiveUp pic.twitter.com/T9PLtamyBA
— Garrett Smithley (@GarrettSmithley) September 7, 2019
Long day, got damage early, team worked on it all day and fought. Got to 11th and then the last caution and restart cost us to p18. All good and proud of the team for not giving up! Also…great run @BubbaWallace! That car was fast
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) September 8, 2019
About the author
Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.