Bubba Wallace smiles in his truck after winning the LTi Printing 200 on the second day of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the Michigan International Speedway. BLADE/KURT STEISS
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Technically, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., has won two straight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. It’s just there has been about a three-year gap between his consecutive wins.
Wallace took over the lead with just 11 laps to go on a three-wide pass and held off a push from points leader Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch to claim the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series LTi Printing 200 on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
It was Wallace’s first Truck Series win since the season finale in 2014 at Homestead Miami Speedway, which happens to be the last time he raced the Truck Series.
“It’s such a huge moment for not only me, but everybody else involved,” Wallace said. “This is such a huge win for me, and two in a row, that’s pretty big, even though they are three or four years apart, whatever that is. But it’s good to be back in the Truck Series.”
Wallace made a bold pass with 11 laps to go and admitted he was a little surprised that he was able to hold off the likes of Bell, Busch, and Austin Cindric, who finished fifth.
“I knew those last laps were going to be hectic,” Wallace said. “I didn’t want to have to make that move that early.
“I wanted to wait until about three or four [laps] to go, but that also shows the product that they put into those race trucks and our Maestro’s Classic Chevy. To keep us out in front and be able hold off those guys behind us and put us in victory lane.”
MDM Motorsports crew chief Shane Huffman said he and his team were confident with Wallace driving the No. 99 truck for them.
“Obviously we have a great talent behind the wheel,” Huffman said. “The move he did was perfect, but I did think it was a lot too early. Luckily there was a lot of racing going on behind us. Bubba did an amazing job.”
Bell, who leads the playoff points chase, finished second but never led. He stayed close to Wallace on the last 10 laps, but he could not quite pass the eventual winner.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bell said. “I was pretty bummed afterward, because I felt like I was in the perfect position to win the race, and I just didn’t get it done. I’m happy for Bubba. That’s really cool for him. He hasn’t truck raced in a while, so to be able to hop back in one and win, that’s pretty cool for him.”
Cindric was the top-finishing rookie after he led for the 24 laps before the three-wide pass from Wallace.
“Man, I knew it was going to come at some point,” Cindric said of Wallace’s pass. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Is Bubba going to push me by the No. 4 [Bell] or is he going to pass me?’ Sure enough he goes around the bottom of the race track, I got loose, and he passed me.
“I guess my biggest lesson from today is that I I feel like I confirmed for myself that my race craft is there on these big tracks racing around guys like Kyle Busch, Bubba, and Christopher Bell. These guys have done it all, and I’m just privileged to be able to race with those guys and finish like we did.”
Wallace got off to a fairly nondescript start before finally making a dramatic move late.
“I was giving everybody else a chance,” Wallace joked of his slow start. “We didn’t fire off like we wanted to, and it took me a minute. We knew the races were short, and we wanted to be there at the end.”
Wallace was back in a truck series race after his full-time NASCAR XFinity Series car was pulled by Roush Fenway Racing in June because of a lack of sponsorship.
The win marked the sixth victory for Wallace in 45 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and was the first Truck Series win for truck owner Matthew Miller and MDM Motorsports.
Wallace, who was impressive in his first time back in a truck in years, said he didn’t want to make the move on his final pass but had to take advantage of the opportunity.
“When I saw the No. 4 [Bell] pass the No. 19 [Cindric], I thought the 19 was going to try to cross him over here,” Wallace said. “He did exactly that. But two laps before that, Freddy, my spotter, was like ‘Ride here bud. Stay while you can in third, because once they start racing that is going to be your shot.’
“It came way too early. I didn’t want to make that move. But I also did not want to be a sitting duck and let that opportunity go to waste. So I closed my eyes turned left and heard ‘clear’ and opened my eyes back up, and we were the leader, so that was a good move for us.”
POINTS ON THE LINE: Clint Bowyer comes into Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 just 28 points behind Matt Kenseth for the final current playoff spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoff race.
Bowyer said he always feels pressure to win no matter where he sits in the standings.
“There’s always pressure,” Bowyer said. “It doesn’t matter. There’s pressure in the Daytona 500 to go out and perform and try to win that race. You have to go out and do your job week-in and week-out, and if you do that, I feel like with the way we’re running we can get in two different ways.
“I think we could win, and I think we can point our way in. I think both of those are definitely doable right now for us.”
Bowyer said he enjoys this time of year and he prefers to take an aggressive mentality into the race for the playoffs.
“Now the pressure cooker has heated up,” Bowyer said. “I’m the hunter not the hunted, so it’s a lot of fun to go into this weekend knowing that you’ve got to go out there and chase the guy down, or chase those guys down, and hopefully pop off a win here and just put it all to bed.”
Darrell "Bubba" Wallace, Jr., gets doused by his crew after the LTi Printing 200. BLADE/KURT STEISS
Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. greets fans during the driver introductions before the LTi Printing 200 on the second day of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at MIS. Blade/Kurt Steiss