Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Talladega, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace was in position to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway but crashed from the lead.
Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch won Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway after 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace crashed from the lead.
On the white flag lap, Wallace wrecked in an attempt to block Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in turns one and two of the four-turn, 2.66-mile (4.281-kilometer) high-banked Lincoln, Alabama oval and had to settle for 28th place.
Wallace is one of the drivers deemed to be especially strong in superspeedway races, and he is often considered to be of the favorites when the Cup Series heads to superspeedways, specifically Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
While many tried to discredit Wallace’s win at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2021 because of the fact that the race was shortened by rain — and the second stage hadn’t even finished by the time the race was considered official — that win is just as legitimate as any other, as everyone was faced with the same set of circumstances.
But when it comes to the nature of superspeedway racing, there are some significant differences between leading when a race is halted due to weather and competing when you know for a fact that you’re racing to the next flag — either to the checkered or to whenever the yellow flies on that final lap.
Just how good is Wallace in superspeedway races?
In the Daytona 500, he has two runner-up finishes in six starts, but no other finishes higher than 15th place. In 11 starts at Talladega Superspeedway, his only finish higher than 14th is his rain-shortened race win.
He has never finished higher than 14th in three races at “superspeedway” Atlanta Motor Speedway, though he is six for six when it comes to top 15 finishes in the summer race at Daytona International Speedway, with two top five finishes in those events.
But all in all, it’s somewhat of an average, maybe slightly above average, stat line.
Of course, most drivers will absolutely take that a thousand times over when it comes to the “wild card” type of racing that superspeedways produce. Above average finishes in races that so often turn into wreckfests? Yes, please.
Kyle Busch certainly would have take it, having gone a remarkable decade and a half between superspeedway wins before “stealing one” on Sunday afternoon.
But would a “favorite”?
A huge part of what makes great superspeedway drivers great is their ability to execute when it matters most — and above all, the ability to finish.
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, who lead all drivers with seven and five wins in such races, respectively, don’t have their superspeedway resumes just by being lucky. Among young drivers, the same can be said for Blaney and Chase Elliott, who have three wins apiece.
Every time the Cup Series leaves a superspeedway race, many do get the feeling that Wallace is on the verge of breaking through. And that very well may be true. More than likely, he is going to put himself in position to win one of these races, and he is going to execute. Other greats have failed many times before finally succeeding.
But while running at the front has become normal for Wallace in such races, he simply isn’t in that category yet. His triple block move (which was never going to work, even if it didn’t result in a race-ending wreck) on Blaney is evidence of that.
You don’t hear anybody talking about Harrison Burton as a superspeedway favorite. He has led laps in both of his Daytona 500 starts and led late both at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway this year. And, bizarrely enough, his most recent superspeedway top 10 finish came more recently than Wallace’s (Atlanta Motor Speedway, July 2022).
“Running” can only get you so far — like, for instance, running P1 when the rain starts to fall. It’s just the nature of the beast that is superspeedway racing.