LAS VEGAS, N.v.— Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. had an interesting day on Saturday in the Boyd Gaming 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Wallace Jr. battled flu-like symptoms throughout the weekend, but continued to persevere through the race.
If it wasn’t for pre-race interviews, fans would have been unable to tell that the No. 6 Leidos Ford driver was battling those symptoms.
Wallace Jr. started from the 16th position, but quickly charged towards the front.
Wallace Jr. was battling a free handling car that hit the wall a couple of times, but that did not stop the Ford Mustang from running in the top-10. Wallace Jr. was able to gain two championship points in the opening stage of the Boyd Gaming 300.
After making a pit stop during the stage “break”, Wallace Jr. maintained a run in the top-10. The caution flew in the closing laps of the second stage, which shuffled the running order, but Wallace Jr. remained in the top-10 to earn one championship point by finishing in the 10th position in the second stage.
After the pit-stops that saw numerous drivers stay out for better track position and save tires for later in the race. Wallace Jr. was shuffled back to 17th, but rebounded quickly marching his way into the top-10 in just eight laps ultimately reaching the fourth position before a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wallace Jr. cycled back to the fifth position after all the drivers pitted.
On the second to last restart, Wallace Jr. was shuffled back to eighth, but utilized a late race restart to take the field three-wide and score a sixth place finish.
This was Wallace Jr.’s second top-six finish in a row.
These early races for Wallace Jr. are crucial for him as he is battling the fight to find sponsorship to run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series season in 2017. Despite the lack of sponsorship for 2017, Wallace Jr. remains optimistic that he will find sponsorship beyond the six races he has with Leidos, who upped their sponsorship this season.
Wallace Jr. currently sits fifth in the points standings only 29 points away from points leader, Elliott Sadler.
The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Roush Fenway Racing was not one of great acclaim for the team. The team fielded two full-time drivers in Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed, while having part-time entries for Trevor Bayne, Gray Gaulding, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Bayne completed at Watkins Glen for Roush-Fenway. He started seventh and finished in the fifth position.
Gaulding completed in the second events at Bristol and Richmond. At Bristol he started 21st and finished 13th. At Richmond, he started 11th and finished 13th.
Stenhouse Jr. competed at Phoenix in the fall. He started 13th and finished third.
For Wallace Jr, the season started off with a sixth place finish at Daytona, but at Atlanta he finished 18th. His first DNF came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he was involved in a crash. However, he was able to have three consecutive top-20 finshes. At Bristol, he received a 25th place finish. Over the next three weeks, he had top-20 finishes with his best finish of second coming at Dover. Wallace did not find his mojo at Charlotte, which resulted in a 27th place finish. As the season entered the summer months, Wallace had seven consecutive top-20 finishes with his best coming at Kentucky. At Iowa and Watkins Glen, Wallace finished 27th and 29th, respectively. Going into the inaugural playoffs in the Xfinity Series, Wallace had six consecutive top-20 finishes with the best coming at Bristol.
In the opening round of the playoffs, Wallace opened at Kentucky with an eighth place finish. At Dover, he finished 11th. At Charlotte, he finished 20th. Those finishes allowed him to advance into the next round.
The next round was not as nice for Wallace. He suffered two DNF’s at Charlotte and Phoenix. At Texas, he finished in the 11th position. The two DNF’s served as his Achilles Heel to advance into the final four at Homestead. Wallace finished the season at Homestead with an 11th place finish.
2016 was Reed’s third full-time season in Xfinity competition. He started out Daytona with a 16th place finish. He went into the next five races with consecutive top-20 finished with the best coming at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 13th place finish. At Bristol, he finished 21st, but was able to rebound for an 11th place finish at Richmond. At Talladega, Reed finished 31st, but backed it up at Dover and Charlotte with an 18th and 19th place finish. His first DNF of the season came at Pocono, where he was involved in a crash that resulted in a 33rd place finis. However, Reed went on a streak of three consecutive top-15 finishes with his best being a sixth place finish at Daytona. Kentucky was not one his stronger tracks, but he went on a tear of five consecutive top-15 finishes with the best coming atWatkins Glen where he finished ninth. At Bristol, he finished 35th, but leading into the playoffs, Reed had four top-15 finishes. In the final race of the regular season, he finished 32nd due to a crash, but was able to make the inaugural playoffs.
When the playoffs began, Reed knocked a seventh place finish at Kentucky, a 10th place finish at Dover, and a 15th place finish at Dover to advance to the second round.
The next round saw consistency from Reed, but that was not enough to advance to the final four at Homestead. Reed finished 16th at Kansas, 12th at Texas, and sixth at Phoenix. At Homestead, he closed out the season with a 16th place finish.
2017 is not looking bright for Roush-Fenway’s Xfinity Series program. Wallace Jr. only has sponsorship for the first six races of 2016. Wallace knows that his job in the first six races is to win and run up front to help with the sponsorship deal. Reed will continue to have the sponsorship of Lilly’s Diabetes in 2017. Just like in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 2017 is a crucial year for Roush-Fenway’s future.