DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Four years ago, Bubba Wallace had tears in his eyes following a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500.
This time around, those same tears welled in his eyes following an identical result. But the only thing that was reminiscent of 2018 was the finishing position. Everything else had changed.
“2018 was awesome,” he said. “2022 was not awesome.”
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) February 20, 2022
In those four years, Wallace has gone from a rookie NASCAR Cup Series driver to one of the most recognizable figures in all of sports. From his outspokenness on racial strife in America leading to NASCAR’s ban of the confederate flag, donning a “Black Lives Matter” shirt and subsequently having it on his car, to openly speaking on mental health issues to now being engaged, Wallace’s change has been monumental.
A kid finished the 2018 Great American Race as the runner-up. A man did so in 2022.
“I was a rookie, didn’t know what I was doing,” Wallace said of his 2018 second-place finish. “Fighting with the bossman (Denny Hamlin) and I was just an emotional wreck. Being that close, I didn’t have a fighting chance the first time. This one, being that close it’s just like a gut punch, going from all the confidence in the world to literally having had it ripped out from underneath you is a really shitty feeling. It’s sports, it’s what happens.”
Wallace’s fiance, Amanda Carter, echoed Wallace’s sentiments about the finishes, four years apart.
.@BubbaWallace’s fiancé Amanda Carter came over post-race and shared an embrace. What she said:
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) February 21, 2022
“Feels totally different,” she said. “We already came in second like this once. You don’t want to do it twice when you’re so close. Like, you can taste it. It’s exciting, but you want to win.”
Wallace said he’d rather wreck than finish second (again) in this race. It’s the heartbreak of being so close that had him emotional this year.
“Finishing like that, it’s like ‘hell, we should’ve just wrecked’,” he said with a serious chuckle. “I would’ve been like ‘aw damn, it’s Daytona’ instead of being like, ‘I hate Daytona right now because I finished second.’ It is what it is.”
The 2018 race with Richard Petty Motorsports was an unexpected success. To even have a chance of contending for the win was more than enough for a young, then 24-year-old. But on this Sunday night, the one spot that eluded him left him wanting more.
“We succeeded on all levels, but we failed at the same time. Going through that and trying to ride that (wave of emotions) is just super tough. Maybe in two days, maybe three, maybe a freakin’ week I’ll get over this.”
Wallace and the No. 23 team will look to do one spot better at Auto Club Speedway next week in the Wise Power 400 on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 3:30 pm ET.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.