Coming of age at Talladega
Bubba Wallace hopes for a belated birthday gift in this weekend's truck race -- after he figures out the new qualifying rules.
Talladega, Ala. – Darrell “Bubba” Wallace can’t wait to take the 21 means 21 sticker off of his No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Tundra this weekend.
The sticker designates underage drivers on the tour since the pole award is sponsored by Coors. But since Wallace turned 21 on Oct. 8, he hopes his first opportunity for a photo sans the “21” backdrop comes with the pole on Friday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway.
As of Friday morning, however, Wallace, like many of his fellow NASCAR competitors, wasn’t certain of the new format for time trials.
“I'm still kind of up in the air about it,” Wallace said. “I don't know what we're doing, I just know that it's going to be crazy.
"I didn't even know that we had multiple rounds -- that's how different it is. Isn't it different from what we did at Daytona? I'm still new on that. My guys just texted me and told me that we need to come up with a game plan so after this I think we're going to start brain storming some ideas.
“I'm on the only one that has qualified here doing the Nationwide race. My engineer just said, 'We're relying on you for practice.' I just laughed. We'll see how that goes."
The format is similar but with 36 trucks starting time trials broken into two groups by odd and even numbers based on a random draw. After five minutes the fastest 24 trucks move to the second round, have five minutes to post a time with the 12 truck moving to the final five-minute run to determine the front six rows.
Although Wallace was 21st during morning practice, he’s not concerned. The team had some early issues that prevented Wallace from “getting out in the big pack draft”. But after starting 10th and finished 17th in his debut at the 2.66-mile track last year, Wallace feels his truck will be competitive come qualifying.
Not that it matters where a driver startsin the No. 54 ToyotaCare Tundra. Wallace was third fast in qualifying in the Nationwide Series race in May and ended 31st after a wreck 45 laps in. Still, he’s hoping for good qualifying effort and a solid finish on Saturday.
"It's Talladega -- cautions breed cautions here. We just have to be on the plus side of that and on the frontend of it.,” Wallace said. “You see guys -- really you're in trouble anywhere you go. If you're at the front, the middle or you're at the back then you can get caught up in it. I just think of where I see Kyle (Busch) running at Talladega and he's either second or third or leading the race and he ends up winning.
“That's what we need to do. We need to qualify up front -- if not, get up front fairly quick and try to control our own destiny and just ride. You feel like you're doing that already and something happens so you never know. You're never safe until the checkered flag so we'll see. Hopefully, nothing as bizarre as the last race."
Wallace is currently fourth in the Camping World Truck Series point standings. With five races to decide the title, Wallace took the conservative approach to his milestone birthday celebration.
"My girlfriend (Shelby) came home from college -- she goes to (the University of) South Carolina,” said Wallace. “We had an idea of going to the pumpkin patch and carving pumpkins, but we were kind of pressed for time so we went to Home Depot and got a pumpkin there -- such a cute, traditional couple going to Home Depot to pick up two pumpkins and then sat in my apartment kitchen and carved two pumpkins.
“Hers was really intricate and really cool and mine I thought would beat hers, but at the end of the day hers looked a little better. Did that and then went down to 'Chima' in downtown Charlotte and tried that out -- I was in a food coma for the next two days after that."
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